Welp, my plan to publish every day encountered reality, fought it, and lost.
Yesterday, instead of writing this column, I spent every waking hour trying to install a forum at IlliniReport, only to find that WordPress and all its Forum plugins are super-buggy, like an Amish hot-rodder.
The IR forum was intended to replace the IlliniHQ fora, which died Sunday. In the grand scheme of things, neither that community nor the 72-65 defeat is all that important.
But both should be remembered, and this post will memorialize a moment from Sunday that Illini fans won’t want to forget.
This reporter has been Team Feliz since the first open scrimmage of last season. That fealty remains. I get why Coach Underwood wants to bring him off the bench, but I also want him on the floor for 40 minutes.
Sunday should remind everyone why Andres Feliz is a great Illini.
First, to set the scene: It was a warm, sunny Groundhog’s Day in Iowa City. About 45 degrees. The Iowa Caucus was the next day, so every available strip of dirt had a yard sign. Warren, Bernie, Yang Gang.
We found out that a big rally was happening just down the street from Carver-Hawkeye Arena. So we went to see what it was like.
It was big.
Maybe 1,500 people were waiting to get into a small junior high gym. Because we were wearing media credentials, campaign staffers grabbed us and walked us past the entire line, and into the gym. I felt kind of bad about that. But I did take some photos for the file, and I’ll share them with WILL. So it’s legit.
We moved on to Carver-Hawkeye, which was packed to the gills with white-clad white people. It was loud, and the Hawkeyes were playing an aggressive defense unseen in the Fran Era.
All defense has zone principles these days, and all zones have man principles these days. Whatever scheme the Hawkeyes employed, their defenders kept forcing smaller Illini to the baseline and sidelines. Both Alan and Trent got forced out-of-bounds completely.
Andres Feliz stood up to it. And then, he took its ball.
[Jason Marry was sitting to my right, so FightingIllini Productions will have this video in video form, rather than a bunch of 10 fps pictures glued together.]
Things looked pretty good for Illinois after Dre pulled off that unlikeliest of effort plays. The Illini led 59-55.
Even assistant coach Stephen Gentry got excited.
But on this unseasonably warm February afternoon, the sun was literally shining on Iowa City and its Hawkeye faithful.
You wouldn’t have known that Connor McCaffery was in a shooting slump, nor that Luka Garza had never attempted so many threes in his life.
They all went in the basket.
Or at least it seemed like they all went in. The box score says it was only 10-of-23, and that Garza made only 4-of-9.
But on a day when the Hawkeyes (and Brad Underwood) took Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn out of the game, that was enough.
Still, as Dre said in the hallway after the game. “We’re still in first place.”
That guy has grit.