Year in Review: Whipping the Wildcats

By Lisa Koulias

Editor’s note: this story was originally published March 28, 2005.

ROSEMONT, Ill. – As the Arizona Wildcats walked off the court at the All-State Arena on Saturday, not only was disappointment all over their faces, but also shock and disbelief.

After leading the Illini 75-60 with four minutes remaining, Arizona had its sights set on St. Louis and a trip to the Final Four.

But Illinois wasn’t ready to surrender its season-long goal of making it to St. Louis.

So the Illini looked each other in the eyes and did what they do best. They fought and fought, pushing the game into overtime and eventually winning, securing their date with destiny.

“It’s heart man, it’s just heart,” said Illinois guard Dee Brown. “The whole time I was saying, ‘If it was meant to be, it was meant to be.’ And I guess it was meant to be that we go to the Final Four.”

But once the Illini finished their celebration and the Wildcats got on the bus, both teams were still replaying those final 10 minutes of the game – trying to figure out what happened.

“I really can’t explain it,” said Arizona’s Jawann McClellan. “It went by so fast.”

“It’s hard to know what happened,” said Arizona’s Ivan Radenovic.

Even Arizona’s head coach Lute Olson was left dumbfounded by the turn of events.

“We’ll look at the end of the game for a long time from a coaching standpoint,” Olson said. “There are a number of things that are going to cause a lot of sleepless nights for everyone.”

So how did the Illini come back from their largest deficit of the season? Even Illinois head coach Bruce Weber thought his team had lost some steam.

“It just seemed like we were dying,” he said after the game.

But Illinois was the team left standing. Let’s rewind the last five minutes of the game and see how the Illini really did it.

4:04 left in the game – Illinois is down 60-75.

3:50 – Deron Williams hits a three-pointer.

3:26 – James Augustine commits his fifth foul of the game, sending Jawann McClellan to the line. He makes both free throws. Arizona leads 77-63.

3:14 – Luther Head knocks down a three-pointer on an assist by Williams.

2:43 – Dee Brown grabs a rebound and makes a jumper.

1:18 – Luther Head steals a pass, makes a layup, 77-70 Arizona.

1:15 – Powell fouls Jawann McClellan, who makes one of his two free throws.

1:08 – Deron Williams makes a layup, 78-72 Arizona.

1:03 – Dee Brown fouls Mustafa Shakur who makes both his free throws.

0:54 – Luther Head makes a three on a Deron Williams assist.

0:45 – Dee Brown makes a layup on an assist by Williams. Illinois down 77-80.

0:39 – Jack Ingram forces a turnover; Deron Williams sinks a three-pointer. Tie game at 80 each.

With the momentum in their hands, the Illini kept fighting in overtime, securing their position in the Final Four, and in history.

Even if Weber and Co. can’t remember what happened during those last five minutes of regulation play, they won’t forget the outcome.

“It feels great,” Williams said. “It’s the best feeling in the world right now and it took all we had to get this win tonight.”