Great Moments in Assembly Hall History

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This Saturday when the Nebraska Cornhuskers come to town (4:15 pm tip on BTN) we'll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Assembly Hall. The grand opening of the $8.35 million architectural marvel was on March 2, 1963, exactly 50 years to the day from Saturday's game. During those first 50 years, the Fighting Illini have an impressive record of 553-149 (.787) in the building and have created countless memories for the more than 9.6 million fans that have come to watch them play. Below is a list of some of the Assembly Hall's greatest men's basketball moments. Tell us yours in the comments. 

Griffey's Layup Shocks No. 1 Indiana (Feb. 7, 2013) | Game Recap | Watch Griffey's Game-Winner
Illinois 74,  #1 Indiana 72

Tyler Griffey took an inbounds pass with 0.9 seconds left and made a wide-open layup as time expired to give Illinois a 74-72 victory over No. 1 Indiana on Feb. 7, 2013. Griffey left defenders Cody Zeller and Christian Watford behind on an inbounds play from the baseline, took the pass from Brandon Paul and delivered the uncontested buzzer-beater, giving Illinois its third win over a No. 1 ranked team in school history and sending hundreds of orange-clad students and fans onto the court. Illinois trailed by as many as 14 in the game and by eight with 3:33 left, but D.J. Richardson took over from there, scoring eight straight points to tie the game at 70-70 with 1:19 remaining. After an IU bucket, Brandon Paul hit two free throws, the first a bank shot, to tie it again at 72 with 37 seconds on the clock. It looked like the Hoosiers would get the final shot of regulation, but Richardson stole the ball from IU's Victor Oladipo with 5 seconds left, setting the stage for Griffey's heroics at the buzzer. The win turned Illinois' season around, as they won their next four games to turn a 2-7 conference start into a 7-7 record with two weeks remaining. 

The Brandon Paul Game (Jan. 10, 2012) | Game Recap | Watch Highlights
Illinois 79,  #5 Ohio State 74

Led by Brandon Paul's epic 43-point performance, Illinois overcame an 11-point second half deficit in a thrilling 79-74 win over the 5th-ranked Buckeyes on Jan. 10, 2012. The Illini trailed 48-37 early in the second half, but battled back within two points with three minutes left. That's when Paul took over, scoring the final 15 points for the Illini on a pair of 3-pointers and nine free throws. After hitting two free throws to tie the game, Paul's first three during his run gave the Illini a 69-66 lead with 2:02 to go. Following two more free throws, his second trey  - and school-record tying eighth of the game - came with the shot clock expiring and OSU defender Aaron Craft blanketing him, putting the Illini ahead 74-70 with just 43 seconds left. He then added a key block on the defensive end and hit five-of-six from the line in the final 22 seconds to seal the win. Paul scored a career-high 43 points on the night, the third-highest single-game total in school history, fifth-highest in the NCAA on the season, and the most by a Big Ten player in 18 years. Paul did more than just score, however, adding a game-high eight rebounds and career-high four blocked shots to his totals. 

Illini Shine on College GameDay (Feb. 6, 2010) | Game Recap | Watch Highlights
Illinois 78,  #5 Michigan State 73

ESPN College GameDay cameras rolled into Champaign for the first time, showcasing the passionate Illini fan base and Assembly Hall to the college basketball world throughout the day. And come game time, the Illini delivered on the court, handing the Spartans their first conference loss. With the Illini ahead by three in the closing seconds, Mike Davis blocked a 3-point attempt that could have tied the game in the closing seconds. He then put an exclamation mark on the victory with a breakaway dunk just before the buzzer. The Krush rushed the floor to celebrate Illinois' first victory over a top-five team in five seasons.

Night of Legends (Sept. 13, 2008) | Game Recap | Watch Banner Unveiling
Alumni Game / Banner Ceremony

It was an incredible atmosphere at the Assembly Hall, as 15,417 fans cheered some of their all-time favorites at the Night of Legends alumni game on Sept. 13, 2008. The game saw the "Blue" team, led by coach Jimmy Collins and 2005 Final Four alums Deron Williams, Dee Brown, Luther Head and Roger Powell, defeat the "White" team, led by coach Lou Henson and 1989 Final Four alums Nick Anderson, Kendall Gill, Kenny Battle, Stephen Bardo and Marcus Liberty, by the score of 84-70. However, the highlights from the evening went well beyond the game itself. The attention of the players as well as the fans turned to the video board at timeouts, as some of the greatest moments in Illinois basketball history were shown. Halftime began with an Olympic tribute to Williams and Jerry Colangelo as Williams donned his gold medal, followed by remarks from both Williams and Colangelo. At the conclusion of the game, a video was shown of the 30 players selected to have their jerseys honored, and the event wrapped up with the official unveiling of the banners.

2006-DeevMSU.jpgDee Steals the Show (Jan. 5, 2006) | Game Recap
#6 Illinois 60,  #7 Michigan State 50

Arguably the most popular Illini player of all-time, Dee Brown had countless memorable games during his standout career. The pinnacle came against Michigan State in the 2006 Big Ten opener. The No. 6 Illini welcomed the No. 7 Spartans to campus on a night when Brown scored a career-high 34 points. He made 12-of-22 shots, including 7-of-13 from 3-point range. Brown netted 23 points in the first-half alone, highlighted by a 3-pointer off a cross-over dribble that made an MSU defender fall to the ground. As the ball dropped through the bottom of the net, Brown ran up the court smiling, showing off his famed orange mouth guard. "This was a Dee Brown night," Spartans head coach Tom Izzo said afterward. "I think it was one of the most incredible performances I've seen." Led by Brown's heroics, the Illini won their 30th straight game at the Assembly Hall, equaling the longest homecourt streak in the country at the time.

2005-Centennial Photo.jpgCentennial Celebration (Jan. 29, 2005) | Game Recap
#1 Illinois 89, Minnesota 66

Top-ranked and undefeated Illinois celebrated 100 years of basketball in front of a sold out Assembly Hall crowd that included more than 300 former players and coaches on Jan. 29, 2005. The Illini, who wore throwback replica uniforms from the 1989 "Flying Illini" season, opened the game with a 10-1 run and never looked back, cruising to an 89-66 win over Minnesota. The win moved Illinois to 21-0 on the season and stretched its conference winning streak to 17 games (a streak that would stretch to 25 games). Roger Powell Jr. scored a game-high 21 points, Deron Williams had 18 points and six assists, and James Augustine added 15 points and seven rebounds for the Illini, who shot 56 percent from the field. Following the game, the Illinois All-Century team was introduced, along with former coaches Harv Schmidt, Gene Bartow and Lou Henson. 

Illini Take Over No. 1 Spot (Dec. 1, 2004) | Game Recap | Watch Highlights
#5 Illinois 91,  #1 Wake Forest 73

Never has the Assembly Hall rocked like it did for two straight hours on Dec. 1, 2004. Players and fans alike knew that this game was Illinois' time to show that it had the nation's top team. Wake Forest arrived in Champaign carrying the No. 1 ranking, but quickly ran into an Orange and Blue buzz saw. Illinois jumped all over the Demon Deacons, shooting 60 percent in the first half while racking up 54 points and grabbing a 21-point lead. The visitors never got closer than 17 after the half, with the Illini advantage swelling to as many as 32 points. Led by Roger Powell's 19 points, 16 apiece from Dee Brown and Luther Head, 10 from James Augustine, and eight points and 11 assists from Deron Williams, the Illini starters enjoyed the final minutes from the bench while the Orange Krush chanted "We're No. 1!"  The Illini would grab that top spot in the polls the following week, remaining there for the rest of the regular season. 

Frank Leads Dramatic Comeback (Dec. 9, 2000) | Game Recap | Watch Highlights
#9 Illinois 87,  #7 Seton Hall 79 (OT)

The stage couldn't have been bigger for one of the most anticipated non-conference games in years. It was a top-10 showdown televised on CBS between the No. 9 Illini and No. 7 Seton Hall. Illinois did not look up to the challenge early, however, falling behind by double figures just eight minutes into the game and trailing by 21 points before halftime. But the Illini showed their resiliency after halftime, led by a sterling performance from Frank Williams. The sophomore guard, who went on to earn Big Ten Player of the Year honors that season, scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half as the Illini fought back to send the game to overtime. On Illinois' first possession of the extra period, Cory Bradford nailed a 3-pointer to give the Illini the lead. It was his first of the game, and one in which he tied the all-time NCAA record for consecutive games with a 3-pointer. The Illini went on to defeat the Pirates, registering the Orange and Blue's largest come-from-behind win in Assembly Hall history.

1998-Turner-MSU.jpgIllini Rock Spartans (Feb. 12, 1998) | Game Recap
Illinois 84  #13 Michigan State 63

The 1997-98 season got off to a rough start for the Illini, who entered Big Ten play with a disappointing 8-5 record. But a hot streak in conference play left the Illini in position to knock off league-leader Michigan State. For the first time since the Flyin' Illini, everyone was buzzing about basketball again. Illinois set the tone in front of an energetic home crowd early in the game, securing a 32-27 lead at half. The Illini then took it to another level, shooting 63 percent from the field while rattling off 52 points after intermission. The game ended with a swarm of Illini fans rushing the court. That squad would go on to win the school's first Big Ten championship in 14 years, sharing the title with the Spartans.

Kaufmann's Buzzer Beater vs. Iowa (Feb. 4, 1993) | Watch Kaufmann's Game-Winner
Illinois 78,  #9 Iowa 77

The Illini were coming off a devastating momentum swing during a timeout with seconds left in the game. After fighting back the whole game against No. 9 Iowa, the Hawkeyes had seemingly won it after a rebound bounced off Illini defender Deon Thomas' shoulder, hit the backboard, and fell into the basket as the horn sounded. The referees put 1.5 seconds on the clock, just enough time for the Illini to get off a shot trailing by two points. T.J. Wheeler was the inbounder, given the task to throw a "hail mary" pass down court. Coming off a double screen, Wheeler hit Andy Kaufmann near the Illinois bench. Kaufmann turned, took two dribbles and hit an off-balance 3-pointer that shocked the Hawkeyes. The Illini bench jumped in disbelief, then immediatly poured onto the court with the student section to celebrate. Kaufmann's shot is still considered by many longtime Illini fans as the greatest moment in Assembly Hall history.

The Flyin' Illini Become No. 1 (Jan. 22, 1989) | Watch Highlights
#2 Illinois 103,  Georgia Tech 92 (2OT)

When No. 1 Duke, the only other undefeated team, lost to North Carolina, the Illini faithful knew the opportunity to grab the top spot was there for the taking. The task wouldn't come easy, as the Illini would have to knock off a talented Georgia Tech team for the second time on the season. Finding themselves down 14 at the half, Illinois slowly climbed back, then finally took the lead with four minutes left to play. The Yellow Jackets responded to send the game into overtime. Momentum turned after guard Kendall Gill left the game with an injury. The Illini stayed in the game and forced a second overtime where the "Flyin' Illini", in signature fashion, ran by an exhausted Georgia Tech squad. With a 10-point lead late, the Orange and Blue put the icing on the cake, when "Flight 33" Kenny Battle received a bounce pass on the baseline and soared for a dunk over a defender. Minutes later the crowd erupted as the buzzer sounded and the Illini became No. 1.

1987-IndianaProgram.jpgIllini Hand Hoosiers Final Defeat (March 1, 1987)
#14 Illinois 69,  #3 Indiana 67

The Illinois-Indiana rivalry was fierce in the '80s, with both schools ranked in the Top 25 year after year and entrenched in one recrruiting battle after another. In 1987, the No. 14 Illini were primed to upset the No. 3-ranked Hoosiers in front of a raucous home crowd. Led by Ken Norman and Doug Altenberger, who combined for 46 points in the game, the Illini held a two-point lead late. Indiana worked the clock down before going for the game-tying shot, but Illinois' defense forced Steve Alford into an off-balance one-hander that missed, and the Illini claimed the victory. It was the last loss of the season for Indiana, who went on to win the 1987 NCAA title.

1984-DouglasvMichigan.jpgIllini Outlast Wolverines in 4 Overtimes (Jan. 26, 1984)
#9 Illinois 75,  Michigan 66 (4OT)

In the days of the heated Illinois-Michigan rivalry, the game in Champaign in 1984 would go down in history. A three-hour grudge match ensued when No. 9 Illinois hosted Michigan. The Orange and Blue led by nine at halftime, but it was a tale of two halves as Michigan responded to tie the game at 46. The game became a stalemate with little scoring on both sides for the first three overtimes. It took until the fourth segment of extra time for the Illini offense to pull away. With an 11-2 run, the Illini were finally able to shake off the Wolverines. Bruce Douglas played all 60 minutes that day, an Illini record that still stands.

1983-HarperCelebratingvMIN.jpgHarper Sends Illini to the Tourney (March 13, 1983)
Illinois 70,  Minnesota 67 (2OT)

On Senior Day for the 1982-83 basketball team, the Illini faced Minnesota for an opportunity to secure a bid to the NCAA Tournament. With the game tied at 67, the Illini grabbed a rebound off a miss by Minnesota's Jim Peterson, drove to half court and called a timeout, leaving Illinois with a chance to win the game with four seconds left. Derek Harper received an inbound pass about 35 feet from the basket. With a dribble to shake his defender, Harper put up a straightaway three-pointer that hit nothing but net. It was his last shot at the Assembly Hall, as Harper entered the NBA following the season.

Eddie's shot knocks off No. 1 MSU (Jan. 11, 1979) | Watch Johnson's Game-Winner
#4 Illinois 57,  #1 Michigan State 55

One of the most anticipated games to date at the Assembly Hall came during the 1978-79 basketball season as two undefeated top-five teams met on a January night in Champaign when No. 4 Illinois hosted No. 1 Michigan State. The Spartans were led by college sensation Magic Johnson, but it was a different Johnson who would steal the show. Falling behind early to the Spartans, the Illini rallied to finish the first half on a 19-4 run, taking a 32-28 lead. The game went back and forth, setting up a dramatic finish with the game tied at 55 and 37 seconds left. The Illini held the ball and with about 15 seconds left, Steve Lanter drove into the lane and saw Eddie Johnson open on the right baseline. Johnson took one dribble and hit a 15-foot jumper with four seconds left. The crowd exploded as Illinois defeated a No. 1-ranked team for the first time in school history.

1964-UCLAProgram.jpgIllini Topple Reigning NCAA Champs (Dec. 4, 1964)
Illinois 110,  #2 UCLA 83

The 1964-65 Illini basketball team had this game marked on their calendar all offseason. Not only would the team have a chance to knock off UCLA, last season's NCAA Champion, but they would have the opportunity to do so at home in the first game of the year. Coming off a perfect 30-0 season, the Bruins' legendary defense, led by head coach John Wooden, was dismantled by a red-hot Illini offense. The Illini entered halftime-leading 52-38 and cruised to an easy 110-83 victory. Led by Skip Thoren's 20 points, six different Illini scored in double figures on their way to breaking an Illinois record by shooting 58 percent from the field. Coach Wooden never forgot this particular game, recalling it as "probably the worst lacing" of his storied career in his memoirs, "They Call Me Coach."   

A.Hall 3-4-1963.jpgFirst Game at Assembly Hall (March 4, 1963)
#6 Illinois 79,  Northwestern 73

With just two games left in the 1962-63 season, the Illini left the comfort of Huff Gymnasium to begin playing in their new home arena, the Assembly Hall, to take on Northwestern. Entering the game with just one practice on the new home court, sixth-ranked Illinois defeated the Wildcats in front of a capacity crowd of 16,137. "The Hall" wasn't friendly to the players on its opening night as both teams struggled to adjust to the new surroundings; the Illini shot 36 percent for the game while Northwestern shot just 30 percent. The Illini secured the victory by outscoring the Wildcats by 11 in the second half. Overshadowed by the Assembly Hall's big night, another milestone occurred five minutes into the game when Dave Downey dropped two free throws to break Johnny Kerr's career UI scoring record. 

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I was at that First Hall game,I was just 10 but it was a wonderful moment in time,for the Illini and my family. I take my family now the tradition will continue,but it not the same without The CHIEF. Thanks for the memories, Tom Carey,Springfield,Il.

I attended the games when the Illini beat Michigan State and Wake Forest, who were number 1 at the time. I was also at the greatest and sadest moment in Assembly Hall history...The CHIEF'S LAST DANCE on February 21, 2007. Go Illini!

Mendel over Quincy, 1982.

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