VIDEO: Illinois fans incorporate famous 'Silent Night' celebration at season-opener
So, the back story: Taylor University has one of the coolest traditions in all of college sports. First-year Illinois coach John Groce happened to play, and coach at, Taylor. On Friday night, the Illinois crowd proved mimicry is the best form of flattery.
So, the back story: Taylor University has one of the coolest traditions in all of college sports. First-year Illinois coach John Groce happened to play, and coach at, Taylor.
After Taylor's "Silent Night" raves drew tons of attention online and on TV in the past two years, the Orange Krush -- Illinois' student-body fan base -- decided to bring the tradition to their school and marry the concept.
They'd call it, "Orange Hush."
So in their season-opening 75-55 victory Friday night over Colgate, as you can see above, the crowd went ballistic once Illinois scored its 10th point of the game. Prior to that: pure silence. It's an eerie effect -- and I love it. I don't think this one touches Taylor's, but it's still pretty terrific and a really cool homage.
Groce, who left Taylor in 1994, said the school didn't do "Silent Night" when he was there. The idea for this didn't spring up this week. The student-body board for Orange Krush approached Groce about the idea -- in his first week on the job in Champaign, back in April. He loved it.
In the past month, a push was made on local radio and with email blasts to season ticket holders. Needless to say, everyone played along and made for a nice video/highlight on a loaded night of news for college hoops' debut.
"I don't know all the ways they got the message out," said Groce, "but they are very creative and one of best student organizations in college sports. And I knew that before I took the job."
Illinois sophomore Myke Henry was the one who hit the big shot that caused the commotion, putting the team from 9 points to 12. (No better way to break the silence barrier than with a 3, right?). I spoke with him about it afteward.
"The feeling was just complete fire," he said. "You could hear a pin drop. It was crazy and wild -- you couldn't hear anything for about a minute, really."
The team didn't prepare or practice in silence leading up to this.
"We treat every game the same here," Henry said, and Groce echoed that, saying his team will prepare the same way no matter the location of the game, the time, the intensity -- nothing. It's always the same prep for this group.
The players weren't totally aware of what was planned until late this week. They loved the idea. Groce, who again was coaching his first game at Illinois after leading Ohio University to the Sweet 16 last season, was a little curious to how it would all unfold.
"I was kind of anxious to see how we would adapt and handle it," he said.
Illinois made four of its first six 3-point attempts. It adapted.
"And there was definitely a different decibel when the 3-point shot went in that took us from 9 to 12," Groce said. "It was awesome."
Certainly sounds like it.
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