Illini’s ‘number-one fans’ camp out over night for prime seats

Online Poster

By Lauren Traut

Brothers Karl and Kurt Brown share more than just genes – they share a passion for Illini basketball.

Awaiting Wednesday night’s Illinois-Wake Forest match-up, senior in business Kurt and his younger sibling Karl were two of about 70 devoted members of the Orange Krush camped outside Assembly Hall at midnight Tuesday.

“We’ve got to get in the front row,” said Karl Brown, freshmen in LAS. “We’re number-one fans.”

Krush members arrived at Assembly Hall with hot chocolate, hamburgers and tents in tow – some setting up as early as two days before game time.

Freshmen in LAS Eric Benz and Aaron Dubnow were the first to pitch their tent – the “No. 1 Tent” – after arriving at 8 p.m. Monday night.

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“A game like this doesn’t come around very often,” Benz said.

The game against Wake Forest marked the first time since 1979 that the Illini faced a No.1-ranked opponent at Assembly Hall. The game in 1979, against Michigan State, also gave the Illini their only win in what was their 1-19 record against No.1-ranked opponents.

As snow fell on Champaign, the number of expectant fans outside Assembly Hall increased.

“Eighteen hours (until game time),” Dubnow yelled to the group of self-described “die-hard fans.”

The exterior walls of the hall surrounding Dubnow’s tent were plastered with handmade signs supporting the team, and around the corner the Brown brothers stood around a grill, wearing layers of clothing.

The fans brought “cell phones, numbers to Gumby’s, Pizza Hut, water and unfortunately, our homework,” Benz said.

They stood outside until the game began and said they hoped to get courtside or floor seats to the game.

Game time marked the 46th consecutive hour Dubnow and Benz spent supporting the team prior to the game.

“I knew before I came to school here that I wanted to be a part of Orange Krush,” Benz said.

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber commented on the fans after the game.

“It’s tremendous,” Weber said. “The players took them pizza, and it was cold out there – we took them hot chocolate, donuts this morning.”

Alumni also offered the fans hot chocolate, but Karl Brown said the fans were “doing good on provisions.”

“I told them they were nuts,” Weber said, “but they just love it and it’s an unbelievable organization. I talked to the ESPN guys about how not only are they great at the games, but they’re so good off the court, in the raising of the funds and scholarships. It’s truly a complete package. It’s more than just getting tickets to the game.”

The win was well worth the wait for fans like Benz.

“It’s worth the whole experience,” he said. “I wouldn’t change a thing.

“Well – I would have brought more clothes.”