Column | Illinois men’s basketball continues to take L’s on, off the court


Sidney Malone

Junior forward Coleman Hawkins looks into the crowd at the game against Michigan State on Jan. 13. Theo Gary argues that the Illini have not only been facing losses on the court, but significant other issues and problems off the court.

By Theo Gary, Staff Writer

It was with about five minutes left in the game, when Iowa’s junior Tony Perkins turned junior Coleman Hawkins in circles like he was a Looney Tunes villain, that I decided the Orange Krush, and KAMS by extension (Why does every “c” on this campus turn into a “k”?), are lame for this. KAMS because they harbored these failures, and “The Krush” because of, well, everything else. 

For those unfamiliar, the Orange Krush, as they do yearly, bought a bunch of tickets to a road game. This year, the game was against Iowa. Apparently, they did this under the name of the Boys and Girls Club of Champaign. Iowa found out, canceled the tickets and “The Krush,” in a crushingly (get it) lame move, moaned and complained on Twitter, misrepresenting what happened in a statement that can be best described as “whiny.” The college basketball world laughed at us, “The Krush” apologized, and KAMS gave their pity party a venue.

You know, I’m not mad. I’m really not. I’m disappointed, disappointed in this University, in its trustees and hallowed halls, in the trees lining the quad and State Farm Center; I’m mostly disappointed, though, in the students — the state’s best and brightest — who couldn’t even organize a good prank. I would expect this sort of thing out of Northwestern, detached and lame as private school kids are, but from us? No. This is an unmitigated disaster … and we lost the game.  

If you’re going to crash a party, don’t cry when the host kicks you out. Find a new way in or leave. Don’t stand outside screaming and pouting, yelling about how it’s unfair and you should get whatever you want. That’s baby behavior, and nobody wants to deal with a baby — except maybe its parents or Tony Perkins, who babied and abused all of Illinois men’s basketball on Saturday afternoon.

He, my God, looked like 2011 Kemba Walker. Curling off screens, weaving and cutting, giving the ball up and getting it back; I haven’t seen a college guard play like that in quite a while. He just kept getting to that spot, you know the one, the DeMar DeRozan one right at the elbow, nailing jumper after jumper. They’d set a screen for him and just let it roll. It was beautiful. It was also exceptionally frustrating.

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Sometimes that happens. Sometimes a guy averaging 11.6 a game puts up 32, and sometimes Trayce Jackson-Davis eats Dain Dainja whole. It happens. It’s not the end of the world. Iowa is good; Iowa City is a hard place to play (Would “The Krush” have made a difference? Who can say). What worries me, though, is Tuesday’s game against Nebraska.

If not for Nebraska being absolutely terrible, that nice 16-point margin of victory probably looks a lot more like one or two. Make no mistake, once the Huskers went into zone the Illini had enormous trouble executing their half-court offense, throwing up threes like prayers and generally not doing the things that have made them successful this season. It ended up fine, they turned Nebraska over constantly, scoring on what seemed like every break. Illinois pulled away at the end, but it was in doubt for a bit.

The problem is not the game itself, how the Illini played per se – sometimes a team shoots 40% and plays over its head. It happens. But the problem is that there is now a recent mass of “it happens” games, and two of those happened in the last six days. Oftentimes, when a team starts to slide, they still win but uglier, with worse execution. Soon, that team starts to lose, either going into free-fall, like UConn has, or righting the ship, like Creighton. Either way, cracks appear in victories and solutions offer themselves up in losses. Let’s hope it’s the latter or that I’m wrong.     

But I’m confident. I think that, unlike “The Krush,” Illinois is smart and determined enough to figure it out. To turn it around after your five-star freshman leaves is impressive, and so I will worship at the altar of Brad. 

Illinois avoided a collapse. Now it must avoid a regression and a slow slide downward, deep into the ground among “The Krush’s” ranks, dishonored and disgraced.    


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