My best friend has been famous throughout the Illini basketball community for the last four years. At each home game, she wears a different face, but people everywhere still know and watch for her. That’s right: my best friend is Facepaint Girl, one of the most devout Orange Krush members and Illini fans there is.
For those of you who don’t know, Orange Krush is the Illini Men’s Basketball team’s student fan section and one of the most highly regarded charitable organizations in the nation. Just before the start of the season, Krush was in danger of losing some of their prestigious space on the floor to regular student seating, and as a pretty big sports fan, I decided it was time to help them build their numbers by joining the ranks of the best fan section in the nation. This has been one of the best decisions I have made in my college career — my only regret is that I didn’t join Krush as a freshman. With the Fighting Illini making great headway in the March Madness tournament, I’ve decided to take a look back at my year and remember some of the greatest moments and traditions that come along with being a member of the Orange Krush.
Creative Cheering and Heckling. One of the greatest things about Krush is the abundance of creative cheers and heckles that we’re allowed to dish out to the opposing teams. For example, when we played Colgate, we all chanted “Toothpaste! Toothpaste!” in order to get under the skin of their players. When we played against Purdue (Purdon’t), we even managed to help get under Coach Matt Painter’s skin, which brings me to one of the best moments of the season…
Painter Getting Tossed from the Game. After a steady Illini run and a long game of relentless heckling from Krush, Matt Painter had had enough, and he began growing vocally angrier and angrier with the officials’ calls. With about ten minutes left in the game, Painter took it one step too far, and the officials decided to eject him. Krush immediately jumped on their decision and began cheering our support and singing “Na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye!” as he angrily left the court.
Beating the Number One Team in the Nation! You can’t make a list about the greatest moments of the season without mentioning this game. The close score throughout the entire game had every member of Krush on the edge of the bleachers in anticipation. With a few seconds left and a tied score, D.J. Richardson stole the ball, and our surge of excitement was quickly silenced when his layup attempt was blocked. The ball was ours to inbound, and then, just before the final buzzer, Tyler Griffey made what is now widely referred to as “the layup” to secure the Illini’s win over the Indiana Hoosiers. As soon as the ball fell through the net, we all rushed the court and rallied around our team.
Invading Northwestern. Orange Krush is famous for taking an annual secret road trip to surprise a rival school, and this year we chose our in-state rivals in purple. One hundred and fifty members of Krush dressed up in Northwestern gear and colors and posed as a group of interns from State Farm. As we took our seats, we began loudly discussing how excited we were to see NU beat Illinois, visibly annoying the Illini fans around us. Right before tipoff, we stripped off our purple shirts, revealing ourselves as Orange Krush. As soon as we began singing,“We Are Orange Krush” to “Zombie Nation,” the same Illini fans that we had previously irritated began cheering us on and giving us high-fives to show their enthusiasm and support.
As if taking over Northwestern’s arena (which is more like a fancy attempt at a high school gym) wasn’t enough, three members of Krush put their purple back on to participate in one of the contests during the commercial break, having previously been selected by arena employees excited at the sight of so many Cats fans. Once the contest was over, they proudly ditched their purple shirts to reveal the orange underneath, and the entirety of Krush, as well as every Illini fan in the house, stood up to cheer them on.
Singing the Alma Mater. As an Illini fan and graduating senior, there is nothing that makes me prouder than singing our school song while swaying arm-in-arm with my classmates.
The next time you’re at an Illini game, make sure to pay special attention to the Orange Krush (not that you can escape us), and enjoy all of our crazy antics.