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Hawkeye Basketball: Great Moments in Iowa’s Rivalry With Illinois

Dear Illini, We don’t really like you. No hard feelings. Hawks

Luka is gonna do bad things to the Illini. And they deserve it.

This week, our Throwback Thursday takes a look at the Iowa/Illinois basketball rivalry. It’s safe to say that there’s some bad blood between the two schools.

Our first stroll down memory lane takes us back to January 15, 1987. Dr. Tom Davis’ Hawkeyes were 15-0 heading into Assembly Hall to take on Lou Henson’s Hairpieces. The Hawks were down 22 points in the second half. Dr. Tom’s roster was pretty much a Who’s Who of Iowa basketball. Roy Marble, B.J. Armstrong, Ed Horton, Kevin Gamble, Brad Lohaus, Bill Jones, Jeff Moe, and Les Jepsen (played sparingly). All but Jeff Moe would go on to play in the NBA. That is incredible. Here’s the glorious ending to this game. That puts me in my happy place.

The apex of this dislike stems back to the spring of 1989. Dr. Tom Davis and Lou Henson were facing off in a recruiting battle for Deon Thomas, a star player out of Simeon High School in Chicago. It has been said that the Hawks were going to come in second place for Thomas’ services. Then Iowa assistant coach Bruce Pearl tape recorded a phone conversation (not illegal in Iowa at the time) involving Deon Thomas allegedly discussing receiving illegal benefits from Illinois. He admitted that Iowa had not offered him anything. The NCAA determined there were no illegal benefits, but Illinois was hit with some penalties as there were other recruiting issues that were discovered. The Illini proved wrong that “Cheaters never prosper” as Deon Thomas is still the all-time leading scorer in Fighting Illini basketball history at 2,129 points.

If it’s not Halloween, Orange sucks!

Deon Thomas also played a role in a heartbreaking defeat for the good guys back in 1993. Iowa and Illinois were involved in an Instant Classic on February 4th of that year. With the clock winding down a ball bounced off Deon Thomas and went through the hoop. Two points for the Hawks. Hawkeyes up 77-75 with 1.5 seconds on the clock in that dump of an arena they play(ed) in. And then this garbage happened.

Blah, blah, blah. Whatever. (As I pretend to not have thought of this shot 50 times over the years.)

More recently Illinois assistant coach Ron Coleman went tough guy on Coach Fran McCaffery. Last season in Iowa City the Hawks were on the verge of beating the Illini. The ball was inbounded to Connor McCaffery. The game ends if nothing happens. Illinois came up to trap or foul. CMac threw a baseball pass to Joe Wieskcamp to avoid the foul. Wiesy dunked it on their crybaby heads. No big deal.

Here is assistant coach Ron Coleman (did I mention he is an assistant coach?) talking to head coach Fran McCaffery (did I mention he is the head coach?).

I’m sorry but this is some comedy. My guess is that when they got in the locker room Illinois head coach Brad Underwood told his assistant coach “That’s not your place, assistant coach.”

Editor’s Note: And as a reminder, the nonsense didn’t end there. The rematch in Champaign last season, where the Illini needed a fair amount of help from the stripes and a last-second Kofi Cockburn block of Luka Garza to stave off a season sweep, was VERY chippy the entire way with your classic Illinois cheap stuff..

This season’s game is billed to be a good one. I don’t know if either side’s fanbase could survive the 1987 comeback or the 1993 Kaufmann game winner. I’d like to try however, so... Go Hawks!