Postgame: Undermanned Illini Keep It Close But Fall To Hawkeyes At Home

Champaign, Illinois-State Farm Center

Iowa Hawkeyes 77 Illinois Fighting Illini 65 F

Illinois and Iowa both came into the season with NCAA Tournament aspirations. For one team, these expectations have been exceeded and for another, injuries have put a dent in those chances early on.

Iowa came into this game ranked as the #3 team in America. Yes–read that again if you need to–Iowa BASKETBALL is ranked #3 in the country. With the top 2 (North Carolina and Oklahoma) both falling this past weekend, the Hawkeyes may be destined for #1 come tomorrow. What a magical year it’s been for Iowa Athletics–Football goes 11-1 and goes to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl and their basketball team looking directly at a 1 ranking next to their name.

Now let’s look on the flip side at Illinois. A preseason feeling of renewed energy and a lot of good pieces returning, the Illini were bound to compete in the Big Ten. Then a wave of injuries swept over Champaign and knocked out every single 4 or 5 on the roster not named Malcolm Hill, Michael Finke, or Maverick Morgan. Illinois, having won just 3 games in the Big Ten season, will have to show improvement and progression to keep the pitchforks from coming out on head coach John Groce.

These two teams started on the exact same path this season but couldn’t be heading in different directions as of February 7th.

Now that the rambling is over, onto the game that was played this afternoon.

This was pretty much the game that everyone expected in a matchup between the #3 team in the country against a team with 7 eligible, non-injured scholarship players. It could have gotten ugly in the end, but the Illini managed to keep it respectable. Illinois just doesn’t have the firepower to compete with Iowa at this point.

Iowa led handily throughout and featured a very balanced attack that was led by junior breakout guard Peter Jok, who led the Hawkeyes with 23 points. Jok came into the season as a good “glue guy” but has really evolved into a go-to player for the Hawkeyes. Big Ten player of the Year candidate Jared Uthoff added 18pts and 12rebs and scrappy big man Adam Woodbury added 10pts and 14rebs. Iowa pretty much got whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.

It was the same ole story with Illini opponents living on the glass. Iowa out rebounded Illinois to the tune of 43 to 32 and won the second-chance points category 26-6.

Illinois was led by sharpshooting freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands who was 5-11 from distance and finished with 17pts. Malcolm Hill also added 14pts and Maverick Morgan (who has been improving lately with increased playing time) finished with 10pts and 7rebs.

Next up, Illinois (11-13, 3-8 in B10) will pay a visit to Welsh-Ryan Arena and square off with the “NCAA tournament hopeful” Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday, February 13th and the (soon-to-be #1 ranked) Iowa Hawkeyes (19-4, 10-1 in B10) will invade Bloomington and face off with the Hoosiers on Thursday, February 11th.

 

(Picture via Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports)

Andrew Ross

University of Illinois ’16

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