Smile Politely

Illini pull out an ugly one

The crowd last night was giving no quarter. They’d agreed to wear navy blue, but that was as far as they’d be pushed. Anytime the Illinois offense wasn’t in motion – or even paused to think – there arose a clatter. It had the desired effect: players moved.

Draymond Green, the eight year Michigan State starter, displayed early a similar impatience with the officiating. Explaining to referee Jim Burr that his call was “bullshit, man” Green got a technical foul – his third foul of the game. A short time later, Nnanna Egwu displayed an opposite, though also extra-legal, enthusiasm: he was called for a “hugging” foul. The refs were whistling both ends of the spectrum.

Green finally returned 15 game minutes and nearly an hour of real minutes later. He proved ineffective. In the meantime, the officials started to exercise a level of control they hadn’t in the first half. After two remarkably poor calls in this very tight game – both, of course, going against Illinois – I feared for their safety. After a third, I feared for my ear drums; it turns out that sixteen-or-so thousand angry people in a confined space sound, to ears filled with the tips of fingers, like raindrops on a tin roof.

There has been a lot of bubble talk lately. (To quote Bono, “maybe, maybe too much talk.”) Illinois has never in this season been, nor will be, on the bubble. The Illini have two top ten wins against zero bad losses. (Penn State does not count as a bad loss. Any conference loss on the road, by the end of this season, will be perfectly acceptable to the committee. You want to see bad losses? Look back at last year’s tournament qualifying team.) Barring an extraordinary meltdown, the stomach upset that Illinois fans have felt on four of the past six Selection Sundays will not be there. Instead, it is being doled out in small doses during the last two minutes of every B1G conference game.

More Articles