The Breakdown: Hawkeyes’ Hot Shooting Sinks Illinois

March 15, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

Fran McCaffery Postgame

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CHICAGO – Iowa likes it rough. And now Illinois knows it.

The Hawkeyes knocked off their border rival, 83-62, Thursday night here at United Center. The Big Ten Tournament second-round game was heated pretty much from the opening tip. Players were talking, there was shoving and the officials reviewed a few skirmishes.

Iowa came into the contest having lost four in a row. It looked more energized and connected than it had in weeks, and the Illini helped fuel it.

“We always enjoy it when games get chippy as you saw earlier in the season,” Hawkeye guard Jordan Bohannon said. “You saw that against Iowa State. You saw that against Pittsburgh.

“That’s something we talked about. We needed to get back to our chippy selves to show that we’re the tougher team here. We don’t care what you’re going to say to us. We’re going to dominate you one the scoreboard. That’s what we did tonight.”

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Illinois freshman Ayo Dosunmu was chirping at Bohannon as the teams were heading to the locker rooms at halftime.

“I just referred him to the scoreboard. If you want to talk trash, you have to back it up and they weren’t backing it up,” Bohannon said.

The Hawkeyes (22-10) led by only six at halftime. Coach Fran McCaffery told his team during the break that it needed to stay focused and not get caught up mixing it up with Illinois.

It worked. Iowa pushed its lead to 16 with 12:15 left in the second half and never looked back. It led by as many as 27.

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“We didn’t need to worry about any of that, especially in a tournament setting where something happens and all of a sudden somebody can’t play tomorrow,” Hawkeye forward Tyler Cook said of Illinois trying to push buttons. “So, we just made sure we kept our heads.”

Iowa also kept knocking down shots. It finished 12 of 23 from behind the three-point arc, after knocking down 15 treys during a 95-71 victory against the Illini on Jan. 20 in Iowa City.

Nicholas Baer led the way for the winners Thursday. The senior from Bettendorf connected on 5 of 6 on threes, including all three tries after the intermission. In all, seven different Hawkeyes contributed at least one triple.

They received open looks because they moved the ball and played unselfishly. They recorded 25 assists on 31 field goals. It represented the most handed out in a Big Ten Tournament game, topping 21 against Purdue in ’05.

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Cook played his best game in a few weeks. He contributed 12 points, including a monstrous ally-oop dunk, six assists and five rebounds. Freshman Joe Wieskamp scored 13 points and pulled down seven boards for the winners. Ryan Kriener added 11 points off the bench.

The Hawkeyes totaled 16 assists against just one turnover in the decisive second half. For the game, they enjoyed 24-11 advantage on points off turnovers.

While the Illini talked the talk, Iowa walked the walk.

Hawkeye backup point guard Connor McCaffery sat in the postgame locker room wearing a red mark on the side of his face. He took a shot from Aaron Jordon in the second half that knocked him down.

“If they want to talk when we’re up 25, that’s on them,” he said. “I had nothing to say. I don’t think any of us had anything to say.”

Except for where it mattered most – on the scoreboard.

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