COLUMBUS, Ohio — It isn’t the win-or-go-home tournament we imagined we would be watching the Illini in this year, but I don’t think we really care.
In the opening round of the fully-quarantined The Basketball Tournament, Andres Feliz, Malcolm Hill and Mike Daum led Illinois’ alumni team House of ‘Paign (HoP) to a blowout 76-53 victory over War Tampa on Saturday night. The tournament, taking place at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, features 24 teams competing for a $1 million cash prize, as well as several rule changes from regular basketball, including 9-minute quarters and an Elam Ending (more on that in a moment).
The ragtag group of Illini and non-Illini making up HoP got off to a quick 14-5 start, en route to a 39-28 lead at halftime over the team featuring some former Auburn Tigers. But no member of HoP had a bigger impact early than Daum, a South Dakota State legend and the No. 7 all-time leading score in NCAA history. Daum had three-pointers to open each of the first two quarters and a game-high 15 first-half points. He finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
Daum didn’t do it alone, though. In the team’s first year competing, Feliz and Hill, both who started along Daum, former DePaul star Billy Garrett, Jr. and Illinois’ all-time blocks leader Nnanna Egwu, had efficient first halves.
Hill, who has the third-most points in Illini history but never got to compete in a big-time tournament setting, had a pair of dunks as part of a 15-point, 4-rebound night. And a man many regard as the heart and soul of the Illini’s 2019-20 team that only missed the NCAA Tournament because of the coronavirus pandemic, Feliz brought everything Illini fans have known to love and more, finishing with 20 points and seven rebounds.
House of ‘Paign’s roster was rounded out by former Illini Leron Black and Michael Finke, as well as former Central Connecticut State star Kyle Vinales. Former walk-on Mike LaTulip served as the team’s general manager and head coach. For context of how difficult it is to participate in this year’s tournament, four teams have dropped out due to positive coronavirus tests, and each player had to pass five tests successfully and quarantine for five days. HoP will stay in its hotel in Columbus until its next game against No. 1 seed Carmen’s Crew.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
BUZZER BEATER: Hill ended the first quarter with a breakaway buzzer beater dunk, which helped HoP turn it around after a slow end to the frame. ‘Paign started off the first quickly up 14-5, but quickly saw War Tampa with a chance to tie it up by the end. Instead, with Hill’s dunk, HoP entered the second quarter up 19-14.
PURE DAUMINATION: Can’t say it enough. Mike Daum is really, really good. His entire game was dominant and an important moment for this team. And he made parlay this into a NBA deal for next season.
ELAM ENDING: You’re probably not familiar with this part of the game, but that’s fine! It was used in the NBA All-Star Game this year, and it was awesome! And it’s in every TBT game! First whistle under four minutes left in the fourth, you add eight points to the team who was winning and that’s the Target Score. Whoever gets to that score first, wins. The target score was 76 after HoP was up 68-49 at that point.
- Nnanna Egwu is the only former Illini who got to play in a NCAA Tournament in college with Illinois. Now, everyone’s getting that experience.
- House of ‘Paign is 1-0 all-time in The Basketball Tournament.
- Each player, if HoP wins the tournament, will receive $120,000.
TWEET OF THE GAME
our college graduate is having so much fun https://t.co/iMTwRQApFF— Room of ‘Paign (@Champaign_Room) July 5, 2020
Sorry, Andres Feliz has to play in The Basketball Tournament for every year for the rest of time. Sorry, it's the rules.— Room of ‘Paign (@Champaign_Room) July 5, 2020
I swear, having (Illinois*) basketball on TV has brought me back to life— Tom Domo (@TomDomo_) July 5, 2020
HE SAID IT
Maybe Dan Dakich isn’t that bad.
"If Dosunmu comes back and Cockburn comes back, Illinois has a top-five team." - Dan Dakich— Room of ‘Paign (@Champaign_Room) July 5, 2020
Brad Underwood just texted Dan Dakich that he has lost 26 pounds in quarantine.— Room of ‘Paign (@Champaign_Room) July 5, 2020
"BU is not doing a good job at Illinois — he's doing a GREAT job." - @dandakich
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
What year is it?
Malcolm Hill from Nnnanna Egwu pic.twitter.com/5npUSrn6nD— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) July 5, 2020
Also, pure beauty.
Nnanna Egwu☝️ Mike Daum ▶️Andrés Feliz pic.twitter.com/hkLfcpx46x— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) July 5, 2020
It’s survive and advance. HoP moves into the round of 16 with a matchup against host team, defending champion and No. 1 seed Carmen’s Crew (Ohio State alumni).
That game is scheduled to tip off Wednesday at 3 p.m. CT on ESPN.