Some recent NBA offseason news got me thinking about an iconic Illini game from nearly 20 years ago.
Star point guard Chris Paul was traded from the Phoenix Suns to the Washington Wizards, and then quickly traded again from the Wizards to the Golden State Warriors.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit the time CP3 and Wake Forest visited Champaign.
Both Illinois and Wake Forest were coming off of losses in the Sweet 16 during the 2004 NCAA Tournament.
The two teams were able to retain their cores, however, leading to both schools being ranked in the top five of the preseason AP Poll.
Wake Forest returned their top nine scorers from the 2003-04 season, including preseason All-American point guard Chris Paul.
Illinois returned Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Luther Head, Roger Powell, James Augustine and more from their 2003-04 team.
What an era of college basketball.
It’s Dec. 1, 2004. Chris Paul and the No. 1 Wake Forest Demon Deacons are in Champaign for the ACC-Big Ten challenge.
There’s a rowdy crowd of 16,618 packed into Assembly Hall. Fans have been camped outside the arena for days.
Bill Raftery, Jay Bilas, and Sean McDonough are on the call for ESPN.
Now, it’s game time.
James Augustine wins the opening tip and that’s all she wrote for Wake Forest. No, I’m not kidding.
It wasn’t a blowout right away, but Illinois steadily grew a massive lead over the No. 1 team in the nation.
Threes from Brown, Powell, Head, and McBride x2 all in the first 10 minutes of the game helped the Illini earn a 26-15 lead.
By halftime, Dee Brown and Roger Powell had combined for 33 points on 14-17 shooting.
Wake Forest also had 33 points at the half.
The second half was more of the same. At one point in the second half, Illinois led Wake Forest 81-49. 81 to 49.
The Illini ended up shooting 56% from the floor and 42% from 3 point range in the game.
Chris Paul shot 4-11 from the field. Wake Forest shot 39% from the floor as a team.
This game was a blowout in every sense of the word.
The Week 5 AP Poll was released on Dec. 6, 2004.
Wake Forest dropped to No. 6 in the country.
CP3 and Wake Forest finished the year 27-6, but lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Paul was named a consensus First Team All-American and is still in the midst of a fantastic NBA career.
In that same Week 5 AP Poll, Illinois jumped up to No. 1 in the nation.
We all know what happened next.
Illinois never fell from the No. 1 spot.
29 straight wins.
A Big Ten regular season title. A Big Ten tournament title.
37 total wins and a spot in the National Championship.
The best team to never win a title. Still heartbreaking.