Illini Wonk
Saturday, March 26, 2005
  Illini head to NCAA Final Four
The Illinois Fighting Illini played their way into NCAA Tournament lore with an epic come-from behind win over the Arizona Wildcats. Down 13 points with 3:30 left in the game and down 8 with 54 seconds left, the Illini fought back and tied the game, sending it to overtime. Over a 7 minute stretch, covering the final 4 minutes of regulation and the first 3 minutes of overtime, the Illini scored 30 points to take the lead for good.

CBS Sportsline has many of the best highlights including Williams and Weber cutting down the nets and they have post-game audio here. The Chicago Tribune lists the 12 scores in A look at how Illinois erased a 15-point deficit in 3 minutes 26 seconds. Also in the Trib, Rick Morrissey asserts a declarative sentence not up for debate: it was one of the greatest comebacks in the history of college basketball.

Joe Drape was covering the game for the New York Times and said it was a miraculous 19 seconds that propelled the Illini to victory. It was the play of the "three-headed monster," the Illini's starting three guards that propelled them to victory. The Guard trio scored 28 of Illinois' final 30 points. Gregg Doyel of CBS Sportsline said Brown and Head put on a nine-minute dissertation on All-American guard play.

Deron Williams was absolutely incredible at the end of the game and had the three-pointer that tied the game and sent it to overtime. Williams finished with 22 points and ten assists and his defense on Salim Stoudamire held the hot-shooting guard to 9 points on 2-13 shooting. John Mullin of the Chicago Tribune reported that he was named named the Chicago regional's top player.

Luther Head hit a couple of big threes, had huge steals and willed the pain in his leg away. He finished with 20 points, 4 steals and no turnovers.

Dee Brown was at his best with 15 points, 7 assists and 3 steals. His offensive put-back late in the game, the break-away layup, the assist to Williams on the tying three-pointer. He was awesome. As for the win, Brown said it was a miracle. has a recap of the jaw-dropping comeback and has a poll on their front page asking which College basketball comeback was more impressive (they've also got some press conference video worth checking out).

Grant Wahl of was at the game and compared the atmosphere to when France won the World Cup at home. Even the Philadelphia Inquirer had a reporter at the game and he said There's a reason Illinois has been the consensus No. 1 team in the nation this season. It's shown it can win under any circumstance.

In the Trib, Mike Downey writes: The winningest team in the University of Illinois' history won one Saturday the hard way … no, the crazy way … no, the impossible way.

The blogosphere is abuzz. illinigirl live blogged the game and you can see her despair replaced by jubilation. Tom Sherman asks Is this a team of destiny? before answering: It sure seems like it. Apparently the win took two years off this blogger's life. According to illinicentral, Words simply cannot do it justice! Jason says it was SIMPLY AMAZING! Gateway pundit (it was inevitable) labels the Illini the comeback kids.

Yahoo! and have photo gallerys.

The Fighting Illini now head to the Final Four for the first time since 1989 where they will face the Louisville Cardinals who overcame a twenty-point deficit to win their game. The March to the Arch continues!
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