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Throwback Thursday: The Last Time Illinois Beat No. 1

Let’s remember this iconic game.

ESPN.com

Nothing is sweeter than upsetting your biggest rival when they are ranked as the best team in the country.

Every Illinois fan remembers the iconic call.

“They’ve done it, Tess. Tyler Griffey knocks off No. 1 Indiana”.

The 15-8 Illini came into this game as major underdogs, while the Hoosiers were 20-2 and won five straight. This Saturday, the Illinois Fighting Illini travel to Assembly Hall in Bloomington to face the Indiana Hoosiers. Let’s flashback and remember the game that happened almost 9 years ago.

The Context

Indiana comes into this game as the No. 1 team in the nation. In the last four weeks before this game, four teams have lost with the No. 1 ranking, including Indiana beating No. 1 Michigan. This is the second time Indiana has been ranked No. 1 as earlier in this season they were defeated by Butler on Dec. 15.

Indiana is coached by Tom Crean and led by future top-5 picks Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller. Christen Watford also plays a valuable role on the team scoring 12 points per game and being an alternate to Oladipo and Zeller. Coming into this game the Hoosiers have victories over multiple ranked teams including No. 8 Minnesota, No. 13 Michigan State, and No. 1 Michigan. The Hoosiers are heavily favored and look to dominate a struggling Illinois team.

The Illini are led by first-year coach John Groce, who took over after Bruce Weber was fired. Groce’s Illini got off to a hot start, going 12-0, including an 11-point win over Gonzaga. Since then, the Illini have bottomed out losing 6 of their last 7. Illinois’ leading scorer is Brandon Paul, who averages 16 points a game but did not start the last game against Wisconsin due to a lack of defensive effort. DJ Richardson also plays a crucial role scoring 12 points a game and Tyler Griffey has struggled recently, as he scored a combined 14 points in the past 2 games.

The Illini will need a major effort to beat the Hoosiers.

The Game

The game started as a defensive slugfest, and with 12 minutes left in the first, it was tied at 11. Both teams traded blows until Indiana took a 7-point lead with 5 minutes left and eventually extended the lead to 14. Late in the first, Zeller received a technical after an emphatic dunk and the Illini went into the half down 12. At this point, the Hoosiers were having their way with the Illini, shooting 56% from the field.

Much of the same for Indiana in the second as they had a 10-point lead with 10 minutes left, but Illinois was able to cut it down to 6. When Illinois center Nnanna Egwu fouled out with just under 5 minutes, it looked like the Illini were done. Indiana extended its lead back to 10. Then DJ Richardson hit two consecutive three-pointers and a long two to tie the game at 70. With 37 seconds left, the game was tied and Richardson stole the ball from Oladipo. He was blocked by Oladipo on the other end when attempting a layup.

Illinois has the ball with 0.9 seconds left, and Griffey breaks loose and delivered the uncontested buzzer-beater. Illinois won and the students stormed the court.

Bradley Leeb, USA TODAY Sports

Aftermath

After their climactic win, the Illini went on a 4-game winning streak and finished the regular season 21-11. In the Big Ten Tournament, these two teams would meet again, with Indiana winning 80-64. Illinois earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament but lost to Miami 63-59. Indiana would lose in the Big Ten Championship to Wisconsin but advance to the Sweet 16 where it lost to Syracuse.

In an 2018 interview with The Champaign Room, Griffey “considers himself ‘indifferent’” to the shot, even if “it’s one of the more defining moments of [his] career.’”

Since 2010, the Illini have defeated the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall just once (2021). This Saturday’s game is crucial for the Illini to gain an important Big Ten win and maintain their place at the top of the table.

It’s unlikely that we see another contest like the one in 2013, but we can always celebrate the victory over the No. 1 Hoosiers.