First B1G Tournament win in five seasons
IOWA CITY, Iowa – When you factor in the recent history of Iowa basketball, Wednesday’s matchup with Illinois probably didn’t look to favorable.
A recent streak of first-round exits combined with poor outings away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena would lead you to think that Fran McCaffery’s bunch stood little chance of extending their season into the month of March.
But they did. “Survive and Advance” season has officially begun.
Iowa jumped out to an early lead against Illinois on Thursday and held off a slew of Illini rallies to capture a 96-87 win, the programs first in the Big Ten Tournament since 2013.
In the first meeting in Champaign, it was Iowa that had to build a rally to sneak out an overtime win. This time around, it was Iowa that took a lead, and the Illini slowly chipped away.
Iowa fans are happy this rally fell short.
The first half wasn’t the prettiest game of basketball we’ve watched this season. But then again, it is Wednesday of a conference tournament.
Iowa played solid defense to start the game, but Illinois’ defense may have been a tick better. Illinois forced 11 first half turnovers, four of them from Jordan Bohannon.
Illinois couldn’t get much going inside versus the Iowa defense, but it came with a price.
Isaiah Moss recorded two fouls less than two minutes into the game, and Maishe Dailey had to play extended minutes alongside Bohannon, and each of them recorded two fouls with more than seven minutes left before halftime.
Dailey did not foul again, but the offense struggled without two of the top shooters.
Neither team had much going offensively in the first half, but both managed to step it up in the second act.
Each time scored at least 20 more points in the second half than they did in the first half, something Iowa has been doing a lot of as the season has neared a close.
The scoring pace changed, but the officiating didn’t.
In all, there were 49 personal fouls called, plus one technical on Illinois head coach Brad Underwood.
In addition, the game saw stoppages for blood and reviews on would-be flagrant fouls. It was a physical game. It was a long game. It took more than 2½ hours of real time to complete.
The big three of Bohannon, Luka Garza, and Tyler Cook led the Hawkeyes to the first-round victory. Bohannon finished with 25 points on 5-of-7 shooting from three-point land, his eighth 20+-point game this season.
Garza finished with 20 points and 8 rebounds, while Cook rode a handful of thunderous dunks to 19 points and five rebounds.
Illinois dealt with foul trouble of their own – the Illini were whistled for 30 personal fouls – and had to find offense from wherever they could. Kipper Nichols scored a game-high 31 points on 5-of-9 shooting from behind the arc.
Trent Frazier and Leron Black each dealt with foul trouble throughout most of the game. They finished with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Even with 18 turnovers, the Hawkeyes did enough to extend their season into the month of March. Iowa’s overall record now sits at 15-18.
Next up, the Hawkeyes meet the No. 5 seed Michigan Wolverines (24-7, 13-5 Big Ten) on Thursday. The Wolverines swept the regular season, winning both contests between the two programs.
Tip-off from Madison Square Garden is tentatively set for 1:30pm CST, or 25 minutes after the game between Wisconsin and Maryland.