“I certainly thought we were misplaced,” said Sister Jean, dressed in her letterman’s jacket with small maroon-and-gold balloons adorning her wrist from her perch halfway up the arena. “Sometimes when the committee makes decisions, sometimes it’s heart, sometimes it’s head, sometimes it’s numbers, sometimes it’s — I hate to say the last word — it’s politics.”
The good Sister, now 101 years old and fully vaccinated, has shown the same sort of resiliency as the players. She reached an agreement with the university last week to travel to Indianapolis, drawing on the biblical parable of an old woman in the Gospel of Luke who petitions a judge to grant her wishes until he eventually concedes, saying, “Let her do what she wants.”
Sister Jean, in her role as chaplain, addressed the team on Sunday morning as she always does beforehand. This year, though, it has been by videoconference. Her message included a scouting report — that the Illini make only half of their shots near the rim and a third of them from the 3-point line. All those rebounds would be an opportunity, so grab them.
Were her scouting reports always so prescient?
“Not always,” she conceded. “But I study the box score. I told them to watch No. 1, No. 11 and No. 21.”
She added: “Porter and I are always on the same page without chatting with each other, and he doesn’t mind if I say that.”
Moser, whose team entered the tournament with the top-rated defense in the country, conjured a masterly game plan, and his players executed it to near perfection. Their targets were the Illini’s two stars: the dynamic guard Ayo Dosunmu and the bullish center Kofi Cockburn, one a first-team all-American, the other a second-team pick. (No. 11 and No. 21 in Sister Jean’s book.)
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