IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Adam Haluska scored 21 points to lead Iowa to a 60-53 victory over Illinois Saturday in the Big Ten season finale for both teams.
Iowa’s win further muddies the league’s final standings and seedings for next week’s Big Ten tournament in Chicago.
The final rankings will not be known until later Saturday after Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan and Purdue wrap up their season.
But Iowa (17-13, 9-7 Big Ten) is at least guaranteed of ending its season on a positive note and heading into the tournament with momentum.
The Hawkeyes, predicted to finish in the Big Ten’s basement, have won six of their last nine games and could finish in a tie for fourth in the conference.
Haluska’s 21 points, on 6-of-13 shooting, also strengthens his grip on the conference scoring title. Heading into Saturday’s game, Haluska led Wisconsin’s Alando tucker by 29 points.
Despite the loss, Illini (21-10, 9-7) also ended their season as one of the Big Ten’s hottest teams, victorious in six of the final eight games.
Shaun Pruitt led the Illini with 20 points, tying a career high, and a game-high nine rebounds. Warren Carter scored 12 points and Rich McBride added nine.
The game was a physical and defensive battle throughout, with 11 ties and 12 lead changes.
But the Hawkeyes grabbed the lead for good with 6:24 to go when Haluska drove down the open lane, was fouled and converted the 3-point play.
The Illini tied it on the next possession when Pruitt scored on a reverse lay-in, but Iowa answered on its next possession when Tony Freeman lobbed a pass to Tyler Smith who was all alone under the hoop for an easy basket.
Iowa stretched it’s lead minutes later when Freeman hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, the second putting the Hawkeyes up 55-49 with 2:13 to go.
The Hawkeyes never let the Illini get any closer than two, and Mike Henderson’s 3-point play with 31 seconds left put Iowa up by five and put the game out of reach for Illinois.
Iowa shot 42.2 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from behind the 3-point arc in beating Illinois for just the fourth time in the last 14 games.
Illinois shot 36.4 percent and made just 30 percent of 3-point attempts, but outrebounded Iowa 39-29.