Illini Fans Back at the State Farm Center In Nearly 19 Months

CHAMPAIGN- Saturday was the first time in 19 months that Illini fans were able to cheer for their Illini at the State Farm Center. 

“It was great to put on the uniform and play in front of the Orange Krush” said Head Coach Brad Underwood. 

The last time the State Farm Center was filled with Illini fans, was on March 20th, when the Illini defeated the No.18 Iowa Hawkeyes at home 78-76. The COVID-19 Pandemic would then cancel the rest of the season and wouldn’t allow Illini fans to attend any home games during the 2020-2021 season. 

 Over 12,000 fans packed the State Farm Center to see the Illini face the Fighting Saints of the University of St. Francis. Many of those fans rushed to the west side of the State Farm Center where they found the Orange Krush Foundation handing out t-shirts. 

For many of these Illini fans, like Jenna Pearl, it was the first time ever attending a college basketball game. 

“I watched them on TV all of the time” Pearl said. “I’m excited that I can finally cheer on for the guys in person for the first time.”

Fans weren’t the only ones excited to be at the State Farm Center. For some Illini players, like Andre Curbelo, it was their first time ever playing at the State Farm Center with fans in the arena. 

“Belo was pretty nervous” Coach Underwood said. “I honestly never seen him like that ever before. I had to calm him down before the game” 

With 12,000 fans behind them, the Fighting Illini defeated the Fighting Saints 101-34.

Kofi Cockburn and Austin Hutcherson led the team in points with 14 points each. 

The Illini will have their first regular season match at home on November 9th against the Jackson State Tigers. Tickets are available on the Fighting Illini website.