Keys to Victory: How Hawkeyes Overcame Illinois

January 11, 2018

Written by Rob Howe

Finally, Iowa found a way. It sure wasn’t easy.

The Hawkeyes won their first Big Ten game of the season Thursday night, knocking off the home team, Illinois, 104-97, in overtime. They overcame a 20-point, first-half deficit. That said a lot about their character and resolve with another conference loss staring them in the face.

Sophomore guard Jordan Bohannon led the way with 29 points and five assists in 41 minutes. Classmate Tyler Cook added 21 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, while freshman center Luka Garza contributed 19 points and 11 boards. Bohannon and Garza shot a combined 19-19 from the foul line.

Iowa improved to 10-9 on the season and 1-5 in the Big Ten. The Illini dropped to 10-8 and 0-5 in the league.

Let’s take a look at how the Hawkeyes did it:

-Led by Bohannon and Garza’s work from the foul line, Iowa connected on 33 of 40 free-throw attempts. The visitors were committed to feeding the post and driving to the basket. They fouled out three Illinois players, including leading scorer Leron Black. The Illini finished with only 14 free throws, making 11.

-Finally, Iowa took advantage of his height. The Hawkeyes enjoyed a 45-26 advantage on the backboards, which included 17 offensive boards. They notched 38 points in the paint on a night when they shot just 7 of 24 from behind the three-point arc.

-Iowa’s defense was not good in the first half. It allowed a season-high 54 points before the break. It looked a step slow in both man-to-man and zone. During key stretches late in the second half and overtime, it buckled down.

It performed especially well in its 1-3-1 zone, which held the Illini scoreless for the first 3:48 of overtime. After allowing Illinois to knock down 9 of 15 three-point attempts in the first half, the visitors held them to 5 of 15 the rest of the way.

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-The Hawkeyes were careless with the ball in the first half, turning it over 11 times. Illinois turned it over only four times before the intermission and held a 16-2 advantage in points off turnovers. Iowa turned things around after that, giving it away just six times in the second half and overtime, while turning the Illini over 10 times after the break.

-Bohannon and Cook were named to the Big Ten all-freshman team last year, and you expect them to fill the stat sheet when things are going well. Garza’s contributions proved huge. He scored 17 points and grab six rebounds after halftime. They came at key times and were enhanced by his infectious energy.

-While Garza was resting, sophomore Ryan Kriener was providing a spark. The big man scored five points and grabbed four rebounds in nine second-half minutes. Illinois left him open and he knocked down a couple of 15-17 foot jumpers. He also played excellent defense in the post.

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-Maishe Dailey still is transitioning to his role as backup point guard. He dribbles too much at times, bogging down the offense.

That said, he’s made strides. He penetrated the defense better, one time drawing two defenders and finding an open teammate for an easy lay-in. He also allowed Bohannon to play more off the ball.

-Nicholas Baer came alive in the second half and overtime, scoring all 10 of his points, including a pair of clutch three-pointers. He also made things difficult on the Illinois guards at the top of Iowa’s 1-3-1 half-court zone.

-For the first time this season in conference play, Iowa played more efficiently than its opponent down the stretch. It was the Illini turning the ball over and being out-hustled. That might have been the best part of the whole night for the Hawkeyes, who hope to build off the victory Wednesday when they travel to Rutgers.

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