Student Newsroom

Illini fans rally behind team despite NCAA defeat


Hundreds of Fighting Illini fans gather at the State Farm Center to watch the men’s basketball team face the UConn Huskies. Illinois lost 52-77 in the NCAA Elite 8 matchup on March 30. Photo by Madison Holcomb / Illinois Student Newsroom

Hundreds of fans attended the State Farm Center’s showing of the NCAA Elite 8 matchup Saturday night. The Fighting Illini men’s basketball team lost to the UConn Huskies, with a final score of 77-52, making the matchup the Illini’s final game of the season.

Despite the loss, many Illini fans continued to show their pride for the team and how far they advanced in the tournament. The last time Illinois made it to the Elite 8 was in 2005. 

Lynda Watson, a graduate student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, went to the stadium’s televised showing of the game. She said even though the Illini lost, she still sees this season as a successful one. 

“I’m so happy that they made it this far,” Watson said. “A lot of people counted us out, and I’m glad that we proved them wrong. I’ll take this loss.” 

Rick Lowe, a local resident and long-time fan of the Fighting Illini, also attended the event. He said for him, Illinois’ loss didn’t take away from the success of the rest of their season. 

“This was just an amazing year,” Lowe said. “I went to every home game, and they gave me a lot of fun. I’m not going to cry about this. I mean, they played the number one team in the nation. What are you gonna do?” 

Lowe added that he really enjoyed that the State Farm Center held the showing of the game and invited all fans. 

“It was so much fun just to be here with all the crowd rather than just sitting in your living room watching it,” Lowe said. 

Dylan Kosh said this is his final year as a student at the university, and the Illini’s season made it a momentous one. 

“It’s upsetting,” Kosh said, “but it’s the first time in 20 years that our team’s done this. It’s my senior year, so it’s honestly cool to have an Elite 8 run while my time’s still here.” 

Gabrielle Feygin is a sophomore at UIUC. She said she was disappointed the Illini lost, but the team made its fans proud throughout the season. 

“They absolutely killed it [this season]. It was electric every single game,” Feygin said. “I knew we were a really good team, but UConn is a top team, so it would’ve been really hard. But they still did very well beyond anybody’s expectations, so we’re proud.”