CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Illinois started the game intent on giving James Augustine and Roger Powell Jr. a chance to attack Iowa inside. When the big guys couldn’t put it in the basket, Luther Head took over.
Head scored 25 points and his driving layup with 40 seconds remaining in overtime sealed No. 1 Illinois’ 73-68 win over Iowa on Thursday night.
“I’m really tired. I can’t wait to go home,” Head said. He certainly earned some rest.
Head scored 12 straight points during one stretch and had six steals and six rebounds as Illinois (19-0, 5-0 Big Ten) overcame its worst shooting night of the season and a late comeback by No. 23 Iowa.
The Hawkeyes (13-4, 1-3) battled back from a 13-point deficit early in the second half and outscored Illinois 7-1 in the final 1:06 to force the extra period. Illinois managed just six free throws and Head’s layup in overtime.
“I thought our defense was outstanding, but in the overtime they made six free throws and we made one,” Iowa coach Steve Alford said. “It really came down to the foul line.”
Illinois was 23-of-31 from the free-throw line while Iowa was just 6-of-12, and the Illini won the battle of the boards, especially on the offensive end where they held an 18-9 advantage.
“They killed us on the boards tonight,” said Pierre Pierce who played all 45 minutes and led the Hawkeyes with 22 points. “They had a lot of tip-ins at crucial points in the game and we couldn’t finish at the free-throw line.”
Greg Brunner’s drive to the hoop tied the score at 65-65 with 3.8 seconds remaining and came after Dee Brown missed one of two free throws for the Illini. Brunner finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
With Deron Williams in foul trouble, Head also drew the defensive assignment on Pierce in the second half. Pierce scored 12 points over Head, but he missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game with 5.6 seconds left in overtime.
The Hawkeyes finished the game without center Erek Hansen and guard Adam Haluska, both of whom fouled out.
“I couldn’t take Pierre off the floor,” Alford said. “I just didn’t feel comfortable taking our best player off the floor.”
The Illini hit only 33 percent from the field, going 22-for-67 and 6-of-28 from 3-point range. Only Head had anything resembling a good night from the floor, hitting 8-of-18.
“Maybe we needed a game like this to get a little jolt of energy,” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said.
Illinois led 34-25 at halftime and appeared to be ready to blow the Hawkeyes out after Head’s 3-pointer made the score 47-34 with 14:41 to go. Head waved to encourage the crowd after the basket, but it was Iowa that responded.
The Hawkeyes reeled off 10 straight points and went on an 18-5 run, tying the game 52-52 on Hansen’s jumper with 9:16 to go.
But Head quickly dropped a 3-pointer and the Illini were ahead until Brunner’s layup tied the score.
“We fought back and we had them and they came through in the end and showed why they are No. 1,” Pierce said.
Brown was the only other Illini player to score in double-figures with 12. Augustine and Powell were a combined 3-for-21 from the floor, but they had more success from the free-throw line and wound up with nine points each. They also combined for 13 rebounds.
Illinois played much of the second half with either Brown or backcourt-mate Williams on the bench in foul trouble, leaving Head to carry the offense. But Brown and Williams were on the floor at the end, with Brown’s two free throws providing Illinois’ final points.