Illini capture Big 10 championship
Thrilling 64-63 win at Ohio
State gives Illinois the crown
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By Jeff Mayfield
has done it again. Since his arrival into Illini Nation, all
Illinois has been doing is winning Big 10 titles. Just a few months
after he was born, Self and the boys won the league and hung the
2001 banner in the rafters. Then in 2002, they hoisted up another.
For an encore in 2003, they missed the title by a game but snagged
the Big 10 tourney trophy as a memento. Then in miraculous fashion
the Illini overcame a miserable 1-2 league start to go 11-1,
including a finishing 10-in-a-row streak to claim the title
Payne has loved every minute of it. He
even basked in a BCS Sugar Bowl and enjoyed the Cardinals' playoff
runs along the way to boot!
But THIS Illini championship is
probably one for the ages when you consider how it was done. To win
so many road games and to win them all in must-win fashion is
something we'll be talking about the rest of our days.
Just a couple of weeks ago I was
bemoaning the fact that Illinois would have to finish the season
with four out of five on the road. Having made several road trips in
my past and knowing how hard it is to win in some of those venues, I
was willing to mail in a 3-2 record and settle for second place.
Aren't you glad that the games aren't played on paper? To win all
five, including those four on the road, is just simply a fantastic
finish. How do you like Weber now???
Too bad our fans weren't with Payne
from the beginning of the season. He liked this team during the
EXHIBITION season! He quietly confided in me that Deron Williams had
improved his game tons and that Illinois' "bigs" (he's a huge Nick
Smith fan) would do enough to get the job done… and he was right.
[to top of second column in this
Now, will they continue to run the
table and win the Big 10 tourney and become national champions? It's
hard to imagine a scenario where either of those things would
happen. BUT. People have been dissing them and doubting them all
year, and I've been one of the worst offenders.
listened to Payne.
CONGRATULATIONS to the Lincoln
Christian College Angels and to the Lincoln Christian College
Preachers, who both finished fourth at the National Christian
College Athletic Association national tournaments down in southwest
for news release on the men's team.]
for box score from the women's fourth-place game.]
congrats to the Lincoln Railers basketball team, who finished
another 20-win season!
(Note: Payne is the young son of Jeff and