Sunday, March 27, 2005

Do You Believe It? I Don't Believe It!

What happened last night at the Allstate Arena didn't happen, couldn't have happened. With 3:28 left in the game Jawaan McClellan made the second of two free throws to push the Arizona Wildcats to a 14 point lead in their regional final with the Fighting Illini. 14 points with 31/2 minutes left means that the game is over. A good team should never, ever dissipate a 10 point lead with 4 left. 14 points? 31/2 minutes? Forget it.

But it happened.

It happened with Deron, Luther and Dee on the floor. Those three, with key assistance from Jack Ingram and Roger Powell, shored up the crumbling psychology of the decrepit hangar and dragged 14,000 or so Illini fans (including yours truly) to unimagined heights.
  • A Luther three, down 11.
  • A Dee Put-Back (play of the game for me -- pure playground -- how does the smallest man on the court come up with that ball? Big, big heart.), down 9.
  • A Luther steal and layin, down 7.
  • After a McClellan free throw, Deron races the length of the court unimpeded for a layup, down 6.
  • After two Stoudamire free throws, a Luther three, down 5.
  • A steal by Dee at mid-court, followed by a layup, down 3.
  • Following an Arizona time-out, a steal by Jack, who runs to the top of the key to set a screen for Deron, who nails the tying three.
  • Adding the cherry was Luther's amazing block of Stoudamire's game-winning attempt at the buzzer. Where does he get the energy and the legs for that?
That's a 17-3 run in the final 3:28 of a regional final against an experienced and talented opponent, with one of the most experienced coaches in the business. Doesn't happen. Couldn't happen.

But it happened.

Any doubt about the outcome in overtime? Well, a little. Channing Frye's dunk gave 'Zona a brief lead with 3:30 left, but a 7-0 Illini run gave them a (barely) insurmountable lead. Hassan Adams' wild three at the buzzer (pestered by the ubiquitous Williams) drew no iron and the impossible was in the books.

Do you believe it? I don't believe it!

But it happened.

Some pics from the game:



First Half

Illini Crowd

Second Half



Coach + Net



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