Top of the morning, Dec. 21, 2013

Top of the morning, Dec. 21, 2013

Something to get your day going, courtesy of executive editor Jim Rossow.

Later today, Illinois and Missouri play in St. Louis for the 33rd time. That's 33 more times than Lou Henson thought possible after a run-in with Norm Stewart early in their coaching careers.

"We were playing them in the first round of their tournament (in Columbia, Mo.), and it was unbelievable how many more free throws they shot, something like 27-8," Lou said. "Well, they beat us by a couple points, and I might have said something about the officiating afterward. Norm found out I said something. When I sent our manager over to get the game film, which we had agreed that we could use, they wouldn't let us have it.

"That was the start of it. The first three or four years, we had our problems. We'd shake hands, but it wasn't a friendly type feeling."

Norm and Lou are on good terms today. Retirement eased the friction that developed before and during the Braggin' Rights series, one of the better — and bitter — nonconference rivalries in the sport.

Lou will watch today's game surrounded by grandchildren at his Las Cruces, N.M., home. He'll return to C-U for a reunion of the Flyin' Illini on Jan. 4.

Ever humble, Lou would rather play bridge with Bob Knight than brag about his 10-5 record in Braggin' Rights games. But he weighed in on other matters, like ...

— "The one I really remember is 108-107 in three overtimes (in 1993). What was ironic about that is we had about a nine-point lead with two minutes to go, and they had foul trouble, but their subs threw in all kinds of shots to tie it. Needless to say, I didn't have a very good Christmas."

— "We won eight in a row. After we beat them three or four times, Norm said he wanted to go back to making it a home-and-home series. I told him it goes beyond that. It had become too big."

— "The timing's good in that it's just before holidays, so you know you're going to celebrate afterward. For the team that wins, their fans get to celebrate right away."

— Unlike the schools' football series, "I don't see how this ends in basketball. There's too much interest."

So, Coach, do John Groce's Illini have a chance?

"With all those young kids, I think this team will have to play a really good game to win it."

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