College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning until practice tips off.

On Sundays, we’ll dip into our vast News-Gazette archives and stroll Memory Lane. Today: The News-Gazette sent staff photographer Robert K. O’Daniell to Seattle to cover the Final Four game between the Illini and Michigan in 1989. Tom Pikus of Client Services sifted through sleeves of negatives and picked  photos from the nailbiter at the Kingdome, won by the Wolverines 83-81.

Where you there? Email photos to

Pikus, 63, started at The News-Gazette while attending the UI in 1979. With a degree in geography in hand — and thoughts of attending grad school — a spot in Composing came open, which he accepted in 1989.

He remembers that heartbreaker in Seattle.

“I was home, but was too nervous to watch the game, so I’d switch back to it from watching The Maltese Falcon to get updates,” he said. “I have always been blamed for teams losing because I cheered for them. Every politician who has put a sign in my yard has lost.”

His favorite Illini memories?

1. “My mom came to visit me and I got basketball tickets (in 1975),” he said. “Somehow we got floor tickets in the southwest corner of the court. Best seats I’ve ever had.”

2. “Of course coming back and beating Arizona (in 2005), which cemented in my mind that Deron was the star and Dee was the supporting cast.”

Pikus' picks:

final 4 rebound
final 4 Crush