INDIANAPOLIS — A win over Minnesota is one thing. A win over Iowa is an entirely different thing altogether.
The Illini scored a 33-point win over the hapless Golden Gophers on Wednesday night, but they're strong play continued in a big way Thursday as the Illini pulled off a 68-66 upset of the fifth-seeded Hawkeyes on the second day of the Big Ten Tournament.
The win advanced Illinois to a Friday matchup against Purdue.
Illinois started strong, shooting well on the offensive end and creating turnovers on the defensive end, building an early seven-point lead. Jarrod Uthoff hit a 3 for a cold Iowa team to cut the deficit to just two a little more than eight minutes in. But Illinois took over again after that shot, scoring the next nine to take its lead to double digits. That's when Peter Jok caught fire, though, the sharp-shooting Hawkeye scoring 17 points during a 20-6 run that featured his own personal 15-2 run. But despite falling behind at the end of that scorching stretch for Iowa, Illinois scored the half's final two baskets and held a slim two-point lead at the break.
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The Illini shot 51.9 percent from the field during the first 20 minutes, scoring 14 points off nine Hawkeye turnovers. Maverick Morgan led the way with 12 points, but he was overshadowed by the Iowa tandem of Jok and Uthoff, who combined for 30 first-half points on a combined 12-for-19 shooting.
Offense was the story at the outset of the second half, as both teams were hot from the field. In the half's first four and a half minutes, Illinois hit four 3-pointers and Jok scored 10 more points. Back-to-back steals led to layups for Jalen Coleman-Lands and Kendrick Nunn, creating a bit of breathing room for the Illini. Not a lot happened offensively after that, with both teams hitting few shots. Iowa made just one shot over a nearly eight-minute span. Illinois hit just two shots over a seven-minute span, but they were 3s from Coleman-Lands and Nunn, the latter of which put the Illini ahead by double digits at 61-50, matching the biggest advantage from the first half. Another long stretch with no scoring — three and a half minutes, to be precise — was followed by Iowa getting the deficit down to eight with a three-point play. Jok fouled out in the middle of that play, and it looked like that would do it for Iowa. But the Hawkeyes continued to roar back. Coleman-Lands responded with a 3, only for the Hawkeyes to follow with another three-point play, and it was again an eight-point game at 66-58 with a little more than three minutes to go. Nicholas Baer got a fastbreak dunk off a steal, and Dom Uhl buried a 3 before another Baer three-point play tied the game at 66.
Malcom Hill knocked down a jumper to stop that 11-0 Iowa run, and the two teams traded empty possessions after that. The Hawkeyes got the ball back with 15.2 seconds to play, but the Illini's defense prevented any attempt, securing the upset.
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Illinois shot 44.8 percent on the game and went 10-for-23 from 3-point range, scoring 19 points off turnovers. Iowa shot just 40.3 percent from the field, turning the ball over 18 times.
Coleman-Lands led the way with 17 points, with Nunn adding 16 points and Morgan finishing with 14.
Jok had 29 to lead Iowa, and Uthoff scored 21, giving the duo 50 points. The rest of the team accounted for just 16 points on 6-for-30 shooting.
The Illini live to fight another day, trying to make continued tournament noise as the No. 12 seed. Friday brings a game against Purdue, a team Illinois defeated earlier this season.
Iowa's habitual late-season slide continued in embarrassing fashion, and the Hawkeyes have lost six of their last eight. It was the third straight season in which Iowa lost in its first Big Ten Tournament game.