Illini Basketball

Wednesday After Dark

Swift decapitation seems like the best option if one must be executed. But in basketball, the bleed out still takes 40 minutes.

Kudos to Baylor assistant Alvin Brooks for recognizing that Illinois can be neutralized simply by shutting down its top three scoring options simultaneously. His scouting report proved deadly.

Rattling Adam Miller into an 0-for-4 get-go — and two turnovers in the first 69 seconds — allowed the Bears to effectively triple-team Ayo when he dared to penetrate. Jonathan Chumbawamba wasn’t planning to let Kofi catch a pass, and the rest of Baylor’s defense somehow encouraged Trent Frazier to kick or hoist the ball toward an abandoned baseline whenever an open opportunity seemed ready to brew.

Brooks coached with Bruce Weber and Chester Frazier at Kansas State before recognizing, as did Chet, that the turd was about to sink. His move to Waco kept him in Brad Underwood’s home conference. Let’s go out on a limb and speculate that he’s scouted Brad before.

Alvin Brooks III, in the brown suit

Combobulating this team in time for Duke, following two deflating performances, would move Underwood to the top of COY lists. And if your aunt had a penis, she’d be your uncle.

Given modern technology, neither of these outcomes is beyond our ken. But reassignment surgery might be easier than teaching freshmen to execute like seniors. Miller might not see such a smothering defense for the rest of the season, but Ayo is likely to get every opponent’s best 1-2 punch. Finding the open man is Rule One in besting a double-team, and Ayo threaded that needle last season in memorable situations. Alan Griffin was good at being found.

Ayo hasn’t developed the same rhythm with Adam, and Da’Monte —despite his alarming improvement from the arc — is still locked in Little Things mode when you might prefer him floating to the wing.

Andre Curbelo played the Warren Carter role on Wednesday. “Instant Offense!” cried the fans. “For the other team!” retorted Weber.

‘Belo handled the ball well (4/1 ATO). He made his shots. And he finished with a team worst -17 scoring differential. The metric invites scrutiny and skepticism. Who else did Andre play with during those sixteen minutes? Nevertheless, there it is, glaring from the box score.

‘Belo’s success, and Giorgi’s, were perhaps a side-effect of the Bears focus on Ayo and Kofi. Even if Brooks’s scouting report emphasized their tendencies, it’s hard for players to remember all the fine points. And really, it didn’t matter. Baylor cruised to this win.

Big Ten teams will already know Giorgi, and they’ll learn about Andre. Some won’t have the advantage of Baylor’s quick guards and energetic bigs. But they’ll all have one more game’s worth of video to study.

As Davion Mitchell said of Ayo: “We listened to the scout. We didn’t let him get to that right hand.” It’s not really that simple. But he added “it wasn’t just me, it was our other guards … we all locked up.”

And that’s the barrel this year’s team is looking down.

On the bright side, Ayo now has an opportunity to show fans and NBA scouts that he can turn a double-team into double-digit assists.

COVID-19 Illini Basketball

Ready for Prime Time Players?

One game into the season (sic), it’s hard to know whether a top-five ranking is merited for this pesky squad of veterans and newcomers.

Monte’s back-screen and Ayo’s read made it look easy, 39:53 into Ohio’s making it look hard. Trent’s interception demonstrated, as with last year’s final game-winning play, that defense is about spacing and reacting without thinking.

Trent wants to play cornerback for Lovie

No matter how great Andre Curbelo and Adam Miller might be, they have not chunked this information into instinctive behavior. Some of the defensive weak spots you saw against the Bobcats were the product of inexperience. If guys don’t rotate immediately, a well-oiled offense can exploit them in real time.

This morning, Ayo acknowledged that a video review revealed some spacing issues, and that the younger players were more likely to make these mistakes. But he also said everyone missed their spots, including himself.

His relaxed demeanor exudes a confidence that his teammates will need from him when the going gets tough, tomorrow and beyond. Ayo embraces the leadership role.

Contrast Kofi Cockburn, whose forthright description of his own struggles with “energy” is a welcome window into the mindset of a COVID-era collegian. Massive dunks & monstrous roars can lead us to forget that Kofi — despite his dimensions — is still a young person dealing with young person things, far away from home and family, and feeling just as isolated as everybody.

Kofi was SOOOOO happy to see his family

For this reason, Illini fans should give mad props to the team’s own bundle of warmth & encouragement — Kelsea Ansfield. She’s the one who conceived the Families Introduction last week. You could see the genuine surprise on the players’ faces. But the joy was especially clear on Kofi. who hasn’t seen his family in ages.

They’re supportive, but it’s not like having 15,000 crazies

Champaign-Urbana, normally buzzing with excitement this time of year, is a ghost town. The BMOC factor is missing for the Illini. Droves of supportive well-wishers simply aren’t there to provide emotional fuel.

The few students walking across Campustown don’t stop to chat. They’re very sensibly avoiding each other.

Telltale signs show the economic devastation of the pandemic. When tenants get evicted, landlords throw apartments-full of belongings into Campustown dumpsters. It’s hard not to see it.

Both Ayo and Coach Underwood were very much aware that this season, with all its potential, could fall apart at any moment.

We rescued all this food.

On Thanksgiving Day, Heather and I went for a long walk & came across a dumpster that had a car load of food in it. Two bags of apples, two jugs of grapefruit juice, three pounds of walnuts, ten pounds of dried beans, a case of canned beans, eight pounds of long grain brown rice, two cases of canned fruit, shredded wheat, buns & rolls, 26 cans of Campbell’s soup, three 12-packs of Bubly.

A couple of the items bore labels from nearby food banks. These people were too poor to buy food, and too poor to take it with them.

It’s a lot to deal with, even if you’re one of the lucky ones who gets three squares and regular testing. That’s another reason the Illini will continue to rely on their elders, to hold things together.

Da’Monte holds the key to the season.
Illini Basketball

Here We Go, Yo

Miller & Curbelo becomes a reality in a few hours, presuming everybody’s saliva stays COVID-free as it was today. All the multi-team eventers are in town, tested and negative (so far). So here’s my version of the pre-season write-up.

Despite unanswerable questions regarding unseen players, we know a lot about the 2021 Illini. It’s still the Ayo & Kofi show. Da’Monte Williams remains the Dirty Worker. Trent might connect on a higher percentage of threes this season. Giorgi might adjust to the four spot.

Da’Monte Williams swats the ball from Minnesota’s Alihan Demir on the would-be game tying shot, sealing the win

Coach Underwood’s interest in spreading the floor, establishing a hi-lo game, and passing/shooting over shorter opponents has grown since last year. It’s why he recruited Coleman Hawkins and Luke Goode. Thus, the current state of Illini Basketball should recall turn of the century teams moreso than the Flyin’ Illini, or the Deron-Dee experience.

What role will the newcomers play? I’ve read a lot of speculation about these new guys. You’ve read the same things. I don’t know if I learned anything.

I write only about first-hand experiences, and I’ve never seen any of the new Illini play an actual live game. Practices and hype videos don’t tell me much. Will anyone bring the tenacity lost when Andres Feliz matriculated?

Feliz kept Illinois in games when Kofi was neutralized and Ayo was off. That Minnesota game, pictured above, was a prime example.

Can Adam Miller and Andre Curbelo fight like Dre fought? That’s what I’m eager to see. The Illini were not great last year. They were improving. It’s comparable to the 2004 version of Deron-Dee. Lots to be embarrased about, but coming together at the end. And you know what happened the year after that.

The Michigan game will be remembered for this shot. But it was the Wolverines’ game to win, and they choked.

An ongoing confusion, for me, is the conflation of Hutcherson and Grandison. Presumably it’s the shared Scandinavian patronymic. People meld the two. In written accounts, they’re interchangeable. That’s weird. Hutcherson is tiny, and seemingly breakable. Grandison has a man’s body. One is a forward. The other is a guard.

Jacob Grandison is a forward

I’ve never had a conversation with Hutcherson. He’s a nearly blank slate for me. All I know is that he’s really skinny, and when people quote Underwood as saying he’s the best athlete on the team, they should remember that Underwood described Mark Smith as having “it” and “the It factor” about a week before saying Da’Monte Williams had “it” and “whatever It is.”

Here’s a Zoom with Austin from September. I wasn’t on the call. I’m watching it for the first time, too.

Jacob is the son of high-achieving academics, and he speaks like a graduate student. Because he’s 6’6″ and swole, you want to envision him on the wing, knocking opponents to the ground with a solid screen before slipping to the arc and draining threes. Because he’s not as tall as a typical 4, I’ll be curious to see his rebounding technique.

Austin is known as a shooter, and he says he’s gained 10-15 lbs. since arriving last year. Because he’s been out with back spasms, and won’t play in the MTE, he’s the obvious Enigma of the ’21 Illini.

The recently sung, formerly undersung freshman is Coleman Hawkins. Earlier today, Underwood expressed surprise that Hawkins is already solidifying his role on the wing. Despite Coleman’s assertion that he’s NOT A POINT GUARD, that judgment is really up to you. Was Earvin Johnson a point guard? What is a point guard?

Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk, like Hutcherson, will sit out the MTE. So you’re likely to see Hawkins and Grandison early and often, probably feeding Kofi from the top of the key.

But none of these guys is likely to start. Unless Underwood keeps his promise of picking names from a hat, it’ll be five familiar faces when the ball goes up Wednesday at 1 p.m.

Here we go. It begins.

Illini Basketball

October Surprise

Last Monday night (October 12) at County Market Midtown, two Illini football players milled through the frozen food section, facemasks dangling around their chins.

It’s a common fashion statement among Champaign-Urbana’s Dazzling Urbanites, but mostly off-campus. Whereas our redneck population refuses to wear masks on principle, our blacknecks prefer to wear their masks as they do their trousers.

These two players are redshirt freshmen. Neither is on the two-deep chart. So you can imagine the ennui with which they approach a global health crisis that affects old and/or fat people almost exclusively: If their season is lost due to their lacking altruism, they weren’t playing anyhow.

This Monday, Lovie Smith said the entire Illini football organization is COVID-free. So perhaps the lapse in judgment brought no consequence to the team. Lovie was mildly annoyed (at 19:40) when I asked about disciplinary measures for players who skirt the protocols. I got the feeling that he earnestly believes his guys are doing the right thing, all the time.

You couldn’t ask for a more noble leader of young men than Lovie Smith. He’s the incarnation of stolid. His quiet humility blends seamlessly with an unyielding demand for justice, effort, righteousness.

But the tricky thing about immature people is they haven’t figured out, yet, that heeding wise elders is good.

Contrast Da’Monte Williams, who Zoomed a pre-season availability yesterday. He sat down at Derrick Burson’s laptop wearing a mask. He waited for everyone to move away from him, then asked Derrick if it was safe to take the mask off. Then the took the mask off.

Few Illini student-athletes can touch Monte’s street cred. On the other hand, Brad Underwood’s least ballyhooed starter has demonstrated, time and again, that he’ll give the effort, that he’s coachable, that he’ll follow directions.

Will Illinois Athletics see its teams complete a season’s worth of competition?

Covid hasn’t killed all the fun here in C-U. Small groups of youngsters can be heard at 2 am, hanging out in the parking lot at Busey & Green. They frolic on the first floor balconies (sic) at Springfield & First.

Last night, a lone, tiny Asian student sang himself home (drunk?) from Green Street to Lincoln & Stoughton.

I know these things because my 2020 has been spent going on long walks every day, then stretching profusely when I get home because I am now old. Walking from my house to Campustown and back is what I do. It’s the daily ritual to offset Stir Crazy. As a good house-husband, I also do the laundry, the dishes, the yard work, tech support, the N95ed grocery shopping, plumbing & carpentry. But it’s the long walks that keep me sane.

Champaign-Urbana is the safest place in America, Covid-wise. Doctor Jones & Company have achieved the gold standard. We’re celebrated in network news stories. History will remember us for this moment.

It’s not just that UIUC is tested twice weekly. C-U is packed full of Asian students. They all wear masks. Some of them wore masks before Covid. These are the faces of SARS 2003.

There’s reason to be optimistic that Illini sports will happen. But a week ago, we learned that Illini basketball has already suffered covidity.

Brad Underwood didn’t reveal that Covid contaminated his team. He didn’t tell us who tested positive, or how serious that/those infection(s) became. He said “myocarditis” three or four times, and added the philosophical observation that Covid should be expected, that it would be folly to hope for a Covid-free season.

That’s when I realized we’re unlikely to see the greatest Illini basketball season in fifteen years.

Yes, we’re doing our part. But even the standard-bearing U of I is seeing positive tests. Worse, to win B1G championships, Illinois must compete with covidiots Wisconsin and Iowa. Wisconsin just built a field hospital because their brick & mortar hospitals are full. Iowa is the nation’s hotspot.

If UIUC’s student-athletes can’t keep themselves Covid-free, there’s no reason to believe the Skeptical States will.

The State of Illinois itself hit a record-high number of positive tests last week, then exceeded it the next day. Most infections come from our Iowan & Alabamian counties, of course. No one ever said redneck principles are sound. But Danville, our very own Detroit, is blowing up as well.

If you’re an Illini fan, and you want to see this year’s teams, you must wear a mask in public. If you’re a redneck Illini fan, and want to see your team win while maintaining Rural Route cred, wear a mask that says MASKS ARE BULLSHIT/GO ILLINI. Everyone will know where you stand.

If you’re a young black man trying to navigate social groups, yearning for the kind of street cred Da’Monte Williams earned the hard way; Don’t consider Lovie Smith’s frustration. He’s trying to teach impressionable young people to Do The Right Thing in a world of adults who refuse that responsibility. That’s asking a lot.

Instead, consider this: Illini third-stringers have sagging masks. You don’t know their names.

Ayo, on the other hand, doesn’t even need a last name. Everybody knows who he is, in just three letters.

Illini Basketball

June update: Bringing the Covid back

Here, pasted in its entirety, is today’s email from the DIA regarding student-athletes returning to campus.


A note to media covering Illinois Athletics,

Today, select members of the University of Illinois football team will begin arriving in Champaign, beginning a process for the safe return of all Fighting Illini student-athletes to campus over the coming months.

The return plan, which we shared with you on May 22, opens with robust COVID-19 testing and initial quarantining for all student-athletes before they are clear to begin voluntary activities. In addition, all staff members who will interact regularly with the student-athletes will undergo testing before they are approved to return to their offices. Student-athletes and staff will be retested frequently through the summer and into the new academic year.

As we have seen in media reports from other schools across the country, it is possible, even likely, that some student-athletes will test positive for COVID-19 upon their return to campus. In the event of positive tests, now or in the future, Division of Intercollegiate Athletics (DIA) officials have developed comprehensive arrangements for extended quarantine and care. 

Due to privacy laws, throughout the summer and the new academic year, the Illinois Athletics Communication staff will not share or confirm any information regarding the health of student-athletes or DIA staff members as it pertains to COVID-19.


An April update from Urbana

I know some of you care only about Illini sports. But most of you are interested in Champaign-Urbana and the University of Illinois, generally. You probably spent some time here.

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of a radio feature I produced for NPR’s Morning Edition about the Champaign-Urbana music scene. I’d planned to revisit that piece, and re-publish it. But then, a few days ago, my old friend Nick Rudd hanged himself.

He won’t be counted among the covid-19 victims; but loneliness + the restriction from playing his guitar for people + the closure of all libraries = a bad outcome for a guy challenged to start over, at 59, following the breakdown of a marriage.

There’s nobody here.

Nick was a central figure, a stalwart of C-U music. Everybody knew him, and most of us played with him at some point. If not, we bought a record on his recommendation.

So the radio piece can wait. It’s already been 25 years.

I’ve never forgotten the first thing I knew about Nick Rudd. Not verbatim, perhaps, it was Peter Buck thinks Nick Rudd is an amazing guitarist.

I didn’t even know what Nick Rudd looked like at the time. But in the 1980s, that praise carried a lot of water.

Mitch Easter produced an album by Turning Curious, Nick’s band, in 1983. That was the same year Easter produced an album called Murmur, by Pete’s band. That’s the connection that led to Nick opening for Pete’s band.

In the late 1990s, while I perused the bins at Record Swap, Nick spontaneously walked over to praise the song Box of Wormgears, from my second album. I felt the spinal straitening that stunned Dave Wakeling upon learning Pete Townshend and David Gilmour had spent an afternoon in a 4-star hotel suite, trying to decipher the guitar part from Save it For Later.

When a noted virtuoso praises your guitar work, you’ve summited the mountain.

Turns out, he meant it. A few years later Nick volunteered himself to be the guitarist, and bring along Brian Reedy to drum for me. Brian and Brendan Gamble are, in very different ways, the two musical artists I’ve most admired in my life. So indeed, the last time I picked up an instrument and performed in front of people, Nick and Brian were on stage with me.

I kind of gave up on music the next year, and became a sports writer. People still show up for sports.

Nick never gave up on being a musician. And then last week, he did.

Nick Rudd Sandwich Life house concert, 2019 – Cynthia Voelkl
Illini Baseball

Illini COVID-19 Update

Illini baseball coach Dan Hartleb and pitchers senior pitchers Garrett Acton & Ty Weber participated in a teleconference this morning (posted in full at the bottom). Here’s what they had to say about life in C-U while baseball has been supplanted by a worldwide viral pandemic.

Hartleb was in Carterville last Thursday, waiting to watch his son play a game for John A. Logan Community College, when things started to happen. His team was preparing to play Southern Illinois in nearby Carbondale. He says he got the feeling, based on the NCAA’s announcement of no fans/tournament still on, that baseball season was in jeopardy.

When word came that the season was, indeed, cancelled; Hartleb said he had a meeting with the team which went as well as could be expected “under the circumstances” considering his players had just seen “their world turn around on them.”

Hartleb said he just spent his first March weekend without having to make a baseball-related decision, and added that his wife’s reaction was “oh crap, I’ve got to put up with you for three or four more months than I usually have to.”

Asked whether he’s experienced anything like the COVID-19 pandemic, Hartleb mentioned September 11, but added that you’d probably have to go back to WWII to find this type of social disruption. He referenced polio as the last time a disease made Americans so afraid, adding that a typical American mindset is this type of thing doesn’t happen here.


“Guys know the way I feel about academics.” It’s a “golden opportunity” to get a one or two-year Master’s, and still come back and play before going on to a pro career.

Hartleb said he’s not pushing his players in either direction. “Last thing I want someone to do is come back and regret that decision.”

He says the NCAA has cancelled all scheduled workouts through April 6, but he expects all his players will keep working out on their own.

Hartleb spent a good amount of time talking about the extra year of eligibility each of his players (and all NCAA spring sport student-athletes) were granted. He said it “took the edge of the meeting” because “it gave guys hope.” Hartleb characterized it as a “redshirt year” for everybody, and pointed out that players invariably get better during a redshirt year.


“The thing we know right now is that MLB is shut down.” Scouts aren’t allowed to have contact with college players. Hartleb says he’s heard from different people that the draft is on, or that the draft will be cancelled. He offered the hunch that it might be an abbreviated draft.

He observed that, at worst, his guys have an opportunity to finish their degrees and/or earn Master’s degrees.

Hartleb said his biggest concern is that guys get injured in summer baseball leagues because they haven’t had proper strength & conditioning in the spring


On the NCAA canceling the entire season: It’s obviously the right decision. It’s a tough decision

Acton was upbeat about the future, whether it’s getting a Master’s degree and returning next year to pitch for Illinois, or going pro.

He said the team was really starting to hit its stride, especially the pitching, and particularly praised the newcomers for executing their jobs while playing in front of big crowds for the first time in their lives.

He said he’s got training equipment in his house, and can get together with a teammate if he needs to throw. “Even if there’s not a hitter in the box,” he can work on attacking the strike zone.


He was sitting in his apartment with his roommates when he found out. He said everyone was stunned., and that the full reality still hasn’t hit him yet.

“For me, it was crazy.”

He praised Hartleb for not pressing individual players to make decisions about whether to stay in school, whether to enroll for more school next year, whether to seek professional opportunities.

It does make it easier to have options, he added.

He said it was weird to be home in March, and not physically interacting with people. “Everything is either Facetime or text … it’s been a very weird experience.”

He said both his parents are schoolteachers, and he has access to his local high school’s workout facilities, which helps him “stay on top of my physical side” while he figures out his mental side, and future options.

He said his team was just starting to hit a groove, that he and Garrett and senior teammates had “bought-in” and were putting things together.

He said he’s grown even more as a person than a player during his time at Illinois, and hoped that if his time is done with Illini baseball, he will have had a positive impact on the younger players.

He said if he had to make the decision again, he’d definitely choose Illinois.

Lots and lots more is here, for completists, in the full teleconference.

Illini Basketball

Big Softies

Kofi Cockburn is a monster in the minds of people who’ve never met Kofi Cockburn. Brad Underwood is a monster in the minds of people who get their opinions from social media.

In fact, Brad Underwood is a reflective person. One of the things he reflects on, frequently in recent weeks, is that Kofi Cockburn is a freshman, and a minor.

Tyler did not cry.

We and Brad sometimes forget — because Kofi is an intimidating physical specimen — that inside the cranium crowning 290 lbs. of lean muscle is a youthful, playful mind just discovering the outside world, as we all did if we were lucky enough to have a freshman year.

On Sunday, as Kofi battled an intensely, historically talented B1G man, Nico Haeflinger marveled at a moment of video he’d just captured for his nightly sportscast. I was sitting next to Nico, so he shared it with me. We sat on the north baseline, under the Home basket. But this was the first half, so Nico’s footage took place 94 feet south of us.

The gist: Kofi was angry, or at least seemed angry.

After a particular play under the south basket, the quiet, polite, shy, deferential, reserved and demonstrably pacifist BEAST-IN-WAITING emoted in way that Nico had never seen. He shared the slo-mo of Kofi’s facial expression, expanding.

It started as defiance. It ended in roar.

Kofi executed, finished, successfully completed a set. Choose your verb, and strive for strength. Alliteration if possible. Onomatopoeic CRASH! in an ideal world.

Or, if you prefer, forget the prose.

Something magical happened. Appreciated simply: Kofi Cockburn scored on Luka Garza.

In doing so, Kofi passed a milestone in an extremely personal, intimate and perhaps indescribable growth step.

For all his plaudits, Kofi remains as humble & surprised as you’d expect him to be if you knew his biography rather than his press clippings.

Of course, all these impressions were formed before his official coronation as B1G Freshman 2020. But the reality of Kofi is that he doesn’t react to plaudits. People have told him that he’s god’s gift.

The important thing to know is that he learned how to play against Iowa, and Luka Garza. In the grand scheme of things, it’s the only thing he’ll ever need to know, because Luka Garza is the best B1G he’ll ever see.

When they face each other on Friday, Kofi will know that he’s answered the Garza challenge.

Illini Basketball

Ayo whaaaa?!?

You should probably feel less depressed about Ohio State if you feel depressed about Ohio State.

You should probably feel less anxiety about Iowa if you feel anxiety about Iowa.

This Illini team has demonstrated, throughout this season, that you can’t predict what this Illini team will do this season. Your source of anxiety shall henceforth parrot the reality of March: This team can lose to anybody.

Luckily, your glass is half full: This team can beat anybody, and has already proven its propensity to win seven-in-a-row.

Ayo mentioned winning seven-in-a-row just the other day, but he was talking about a state title, not a national title.

Ayo is voracious about titles. The chip on his shoulder is practically visible. His deference toward teammates & oft-stated respect for opponents belies a singular, individual drive to prove to you and your mom and everyone else that he, Ayo IS YOUR DADDY.

Ayo’s love of competition is infectious, and he’s contaminated an entire team and fanbase.

There have been two hints in recent Ayo Availabilities which should, at the very least, drive conspiracy theories about Ayo returning for a third year.

The most obvious was when he said he was contemplating Journalism as a major.

The other came after that, and I can’t remember which pregame availability it was, but you should probably just click on all the IlliniReport videos anyway.

But the good news about Ayo is that he wants to be The Guy who returned Illinois to jersey-popping status. If His Team doesn’t win three-in-a-row next weekend, or six-in-a-row after that; you can imagine him making another Consequential Decision in your favor.


The alternative is that you celebrate a championship.

Illini Basketball

The Deserve Curve

You like sports & you know how to use the Internet, so you’ve probably encountered a probability to win graph. You might remember the one from ILLINI/MSU football. The sine wave changed at the end. The orange line moved up in comparison to the green line.

On Sunday, the red line hovered over the orange line for about 39 minutes of basketball.

Maybe not on your preferred website, but in my mind. Indiana was better than Illinois, and deserved to win Sunday’s game — for about 39 minutes.

If you want a more precise figure, the best I can come up with is 39 minutes and 53.6 seconds, because that’s when Terry Oglesby blew his whistle, and awarded a timeout to Trent Frazier.

It was this moment, when Andres Feliz pounced on a loose-ish ball, that the pendulum swung.

That might seem like an easy thing to say, because it happened to be the moment upon which the game swung.

Archie Miller wondered how the play could unfold with neither foul nor held-ball whistled.

Indiana was in position for a game-winning shot when — with about 8 seconds remaining —  Andres Feliz leapt to steal the ball from Phinisee, who had unsuccessfully attempted to dribble through Trent Frazier’s outstretched leg.

Feliz then rolled his upper body away from Phinisee to prevent a held-ball situation. Trent ran toward referee Terry Ogelsby, who was closely monitoring the play. Frazier both screamed and signaled for a time-out, which Oglesby granted.

Indiana fans melted the Internet and phone lines for post-game call-in shows, arguing that Trent’s leg had committed a punishable act.

It’s an interesting theory. Should Oglesby have called tripping? Did Trent have a right to stand where he was planted? Might it be a charge?

Maybe Oglesby just didn’t see the contact. It happened pretty quickly.

In general, I think complaints about officiating are a waste of time. Fans often misinterpret calls (e.g. yes it was a clean block, but the defender bumped the shooter with his hip), and too many fans vocally express displeasure at all calls, creating a Boy Who Cried Wolf vibe with the refs.

That said, the officiating on Sunday was worth discussing.

The most obvious gaffe was a foul not called on Devonte Green. Andres Feliz drove to the basket, Joey Brunk and Green closed in, and Green hacked Feliz on his shooting arm, visibly changing the shot and Feliz’s follow-through.

Feliz was so stunned by the non-call that he failed to get back on defense (which is, as you know, quite unlike Feliz).

The other remarkable call that went against Illinois saw Oglesby whistling Alan Griffin for helping an off-balance Justin Smith fall out-of-bounds.

Did Alan touch Smith? Did he give Smith a gentle push? That’s obviously what Oglesby saw.

I was at the far end, so I asked my fellow reporters if anyone got a good look. Erich Fisher said something along the lines of where there’s smoke there’s fire.

Brian Dorsey must have agreed with Alan, because his make-up call arrived as soon as he could find a potential infraction. It’s easy to call traveling in any situation, so traveling is a common tool for make-up calls.

Some Hoosier grad student might inquire about a grant to study how officiating affected the outcome of this game. Surely some donors would fund it. I’d like to know myself.

As far as deserving to win. Indiana definitely deserved this game for all but 6.4 seconds. And then Illinois deserved it more.

Ayo’s third major end-game gaffe (Miami, MSU) nearly handed the Hoosiers their win. But Ayo also drilled the big three that pushed the lead to 65-60. He drained his two free-throws. i.e. he redeemed himself, and snatched back the win.

They say ball don’t lie. It seems about right that at the end of the game, Illinois had one point more than Indiana. They deserved it more.