In December 1988, Illinois men’s basketball coach Lou Henson had his team ranked No. 5 and off to an 8–0 start on the season. But the Flyin’ Illini found themselves grounded at the start of their Braggin’ Rights rivalry game with tenth-ranked Mizzou.
The Tigers raced out to a 39–21 lead with 4:16 remaining in the first half. But Illinois clawed its way back, due in large part to the play of team captain Kenny Battle. The senior from Aurora, IL, scored 19 of his 28 points in the second half, including the go-ahead free throws in the final minute. A last-second layup by teammate Larry Smith provided the final 87–84 margin.
Illinois would make it all the way to the 1989 Final Four before losing to eventual champion Michigan, 83–81, in a game in which Battle scored 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Battle would be drafted 27th overall by the Phoenix Suns that spring. He now coaches an AAU team, KB Hoops, in Aurora.
Battle’s alma mater will try to halt a three-game Braggin’ Rights losing streak to Mizzou this Saturday in St. Louis. Kenny Battle profile