While games played at the United Center count as a "neutral site" in the Illinois basketball media guide, for the Illinois basketball program the UC is a home away from home. Saturday's contest against UIC marks the 47th game the Illini will play there, dating back '94-'95. Illinois basketball owns an all-time record of 34-12 (.739) at the home of the Chicago Bulls.
This is a homecoming game for many Illinois basketball players, as half of the UI roster features players from Chicagoland in Tracy Abrams, Nnanna Egwu, Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate, (all from Chicago), along with walk-on Mike LaTulip (Arlington Heights) and transfers (who are currently sitting out) Darius Paul (Gurnee, little brother of Brandon Paul) and Ahmad Starks (Chicago).
The Illini played three games at the United Center last season, barely squeaking by a very terrible Auburn team in December and Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament opening round on a Brandon Paul buzzer beater, before falling to No. 3 Indiana in the conference tournament quarterfinals.
Here is the complete list of Illinois basketball games at the United Center, in chronological order. For ten of the most memorable games in Illinois basketball history at the UC (in no particular order, and these are most memorable, not "best," it doesn't have to be a Illinois basketball win to make the list.
Dec. 4, 1994 #6 Duke L 65-70
Dec. 23, 1995 #24 California W 83-69
Richard Keene and Kiwane Garris star in the first Illinois basketball win in what was then a brand new arena.
Dec. 21, 1996 #24 UCLA W 79-63
Dec. 13, 1997 #17 Clemson W 71-61
March 6, 1998 Wisconsin* W 66-61
March 7, 1998 #9 Purdue* L 47-68
First ever Big Ten Tournament
Dec. 5, 1998 Bradley W 53-48
March 4, 1999 #23 Minnesota* W 74-67
March 5, 1999 #17 Indiana* W 83-66
March 6, 1999 #11Ohio State* W 79-77
March 7, 1999 #2 Michigan State* L 50-67
One of the worst Illinois basketball teams in recent memory, 3-13 in Big Ten play, was relegated to starting walk-on Nate Mast. That's how bad their point guard situation was. Yet they beat three AP top 25 teams in three nights (as an #11 seed in the conference tournament) to reach the tourney final. Only a Final Four MSU team kept them from an automatic bid to the NCAAs. Ah the '99 BTT!
Nov. 30, 1999 #17 Duke L 69-72
The first ever Big Ten/ACC Challenge game. Today the made for television event is a non-conference highlight.
Dec. 18, 1999 #8 Kansas W 84-70
Again, how many games of this magnitude have taught us how little non-conference play matters. Look at where Illinois basketball and KU finished that here in March.
March 10, 2000 #13 Indiana* W 72-69
March 11, 2000 Penn State* W 94-84
March 12, 2000 #5 Michigan State* L 61-76
Dec. 16, 2000 #7 Arizona W 81-73
Record-breaking 3-pt sharpshooter Cory Bradford keys win over the highest ranked opponent at the UC in Illinois basketball history
March 9, 2001 Purdue* W 83-66
March 10, 2001 Indiana* L 56-58
Dec. 8, 2001 Arkansas W 94-91
March 15, 2002 San Diego State^ W 93-64
March 17, 2002 Creighton^ W 72-60
Two NCAA Tournament victories as Frank Williams showed just how great he could be. When he wanted to be.
Dec. 14, 2002 Temple W 70-54
Feb. 22, 2003 Northwestern W 73-61
Let's do this every year, move NU's home game with Illinois to the UC. Since Welsh-Ryan Arena is low-major facility.
March 14, 2003 Northwestern* W 94-65
March 15, 2003 Indiana * W 73-72
March 16, 2003 Ohio State* W 72-59
Illinois basketball wins its first ever Big Ten Tournament
Dec. 6, 2003 Arkansas W 84-61
Dec. 29, 2003 UIC W 75-60
Dec. 11, 2004 Oregon W 83-66
March 11, 2005 Northwestern* W 68-51
March 12, 2005 Minnesota* W 64-56
March 13, 2005 #23 Wisconsin* W 54-43
The "Champaign Campaign" as 50 Cent would say. Illinois basketball would tie the NCAA record for wins in a season and reach the national title game. Bruce Weber coached them through the BTT despite losing his mother that same week. They won the conference tournament, with a moving moment of silence for Dawn Weber.
Dec. 3, 2005 Xavier W 65-62
Dec. 9, 2006 UIC W 71-66
March 8, 2007 Penn State* W 66-60
March 9, 2007 Indiana* W 58-54, ot
You loved this game...if you hate yourself, and you hate basketball.
March 10, 2007 #3 Wisconsin* L 41-53
Another game that makes your eyes burn and your everything hurt
Dec. 8, 2007 #22 Arizona L 72-78, ot
Dec. 6, 2008 Georgia W 76-42
Jan. 2, 2010 Gonzaga L 83-85, ot
Exciting finish in a game of huge runs and big momentum swings.
Dec. 18, 2010 UIC L 54-57
Worst loss of the Bruce Weber era and biggest win in UIC history
Dec. 17, 2011 UNLV L 48-64
Dec. 29, 2012 Auburn W 81-79
March 14, 2013 Minnesota* W 51-49
Exciting finish on a BP3 buzzer beater.
March 15, 2013 #3 Indiana* L 64-80
Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. He’s also an analyst for multiple news talk radio stations across the country; with regular weekly segments on NBC and Fox Sports Radio. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks) and RSS Catch him Tuesdays talking Illini and Northwestern for KOZN 1620 The Zone, Fridays talking Chicago Bears for WAOR 95.7 The Fan
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