Illinois Basketball: 5 greatest seasons in Illini history

Indiana Hoosiers v Illinois Fighting Illini
Indiana Hoosiers v Illinois Fighting Illini / Jonathan Daniel/GettyImages
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2. 1988-89 season

  • 31-5 Overall
  • 14-4 Big Ten
  • Final 4
  • AP Final Ranking: 3rd

Lou Henson, an Illini mainstay and the all-time winningest coach in program history at 423-224, had the Orange and Blue primed for a memorable season. Historians and fans consider this Illini team to be one of the best ever assembled. The "Flying Illini" scored 100 or more points in eight games in 1988-89. 

Illinois retained important pieces from the 1987-88 squad. Kenny Battle, Kendall Gill, Steve Bardo, Lowell Hamilton, Nick Anderson and Larry Smith returned. Joining them was junior college All-American P.J. Bowman and former high school All-American Marcus Liberty. 

Illinois didn't suffer a home loss during the season and only lost four games in Big Ten play. The Illini rode a 10-game win streak into the Final 4, where they lost to conference rival Michigan, 83-81. The Illini were 2-0 versus the Wolverines in the regular season. The game saw 33 lead changes. 

The Orange and Blue saw three players taken in that June's NBA Draft, Kendall Gill, Nick Anderson and Kenny Battle. Anderson was also awarded the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.