Seniors pick up team after Iowa

By Ian Gold

I hadn’t stopped staring upwards at the video screen trying to memorize the score, 79-74, before I was thumbing through the media guide. I was looking for exactly what date we played Iowa at home, Feb. 25 at 5:00 p.m.; don’t be late.

Pregame at Assembly Hall is always electric leading up to tip off, but the stands should be jam packed full of fans who have lived and died with the program and want to send off its two seniors in proper fashion. I was inspired to create the senior night fantasy in my head after James Augustine and Dee Brown combined for 49 points and essentially, the win over a tough Michigan team.

Warren Carter hit the two big free throws at the end, Shaun Pruitt, although in foul trouble, looked like he could be a force in the Big Ten, and Brian Randle was an absolute nightmare for Michigan. When Randle plays the way he did Saturday Illinois becomes a legit tourney competitor, but how could I come away from Saturday’s game without looking forward to senior night?

Dee ran the team like the point guard he has been re-aspiring to be, while being assertive enough to get his buckets and Augustine played like he realized how dominant he could be inside, against two of the better big men in the conference.

From the 10:45 mark of the second half to :17.3, the two seniors scored every one of Illinois’ points. Brown recognized his hot shooting and took Michigan out of their zone single-handedly, and when the Illini needed points they looked inside to Augustine.

It’s easy to skim through the stat sheet and realize how important the seniors were yesterday. While Dee and James had 26 and 23 respectively, no other player reached double figures. Dee led the team in assists and James led the team in rebounds, but what isn’t highlighted for the common fan means just as much.

Dee spent the entire postgame interview session rubbing his calves after playing for 40 minutes and instead of celebrating a full game or his point total he responded with a simple, “I do whatever my team needs me to.”

James, although 6′ 10” and coming off a foot injury, leads the team in practice conditioning, if you’re just getting your first playing time now, you better not let him beat you by that much.

I urge myself to appreciate the now, having two seniors of this caliber and worth is extremely rare. But at the same time, these two senior’s impacts will far surpass their eligibility. What they are teaching the current Illini in practice is invaluable, and every young athlete rocking an orange headband or lowering the hoop and pumping the fist after dunking will be looking to Champaign.

For years, Weber has been stating that you are only as good as your seniors, if that’s the case Illinois is doing A-OK.

Ian Gold is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]