By DEREK SAWVELL
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Justin Johnson’s brilliant 25-point performance helped lead Iowa to a 57-45 win over Eastern Illinois on Saturday night in the consolation men’s basketball game of the Hawkeye Challenge. The Hawkeyes moved to 5-4 on the season, while the Panthers fell to 1-6.
Iowa finished the game shooting 45.7-percent (21 of 46) while holding Eastern Illinois to only 37.8-percent (14 of 37) on the evening.
Johnson shot 7-for-10 from behind the three-point line for the game. His seven three-point baskets were just two off the Iowa record of nine in a game. Johnson was selected to the all-tournament team and his 13 three-point field goals over the two-day span set a tournament record.
“I came out ready and the team came out ready,” Johnson said.
“There’s a guy who’s hard to stop,” said Eastern Illinois head coach Mike Miller. “We tried to change it up a little bit on him defensively, but they did a good job finding him.”
The Hawkeyes out-rebounded the Panthers 29-23, including eight offensive rebounds that led to 14 second-chance points. Iowa also cut down on its turnovers, committing only 16 for the game.
Although Iowa played better and found a win in the consolation game, both Johnson and Head Coach Todd Lickliter still didn’t feel right about the loss to Louisiana-Monroe in the opening round.
“I’m still mad that we lost last night,” Johnson said.
“We want to compete to win,” Lickliter said. “There is a right way to play this game and until we play like that I won’t be happy but we can’t change last night.”
Yet the coach did have a Hawkeye performance to be happy about with the victory over the Panthers.
“It takes a degree of concentration and commitment to compete,” Lickliter said. “I like precision and efficiency and if you find that, then comes consistency.”
Iowa used the first 10 minutes of the first half to open up an 18-8 lead behind 10 quick points by Johnson. During that time, Eastern Illinois found scoring from only one outlet, sophomore guard Romain Martin who scored the Panther’s first eight points. Martin led the Panthers in scoring with 18 points.
Iowa then went on a four-minute scoring drought, allowing Eastern Illinois to cut the lead to 18-12 before J.R. Angle and Johnson hit back-to-back three pointers to push the Hawkeye lead to 24-12. Angle finished the game with eight points and four rebounds.
Eastern Illinois then stepped up defensively and held Iowa scoreless the final five minutes of the half and ended on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 24-19 at half time.
Johnson started the second half with a hot streak of four three-point baskets in the first five minutes, while Martin could only answer with one three-pointer. Iowa’s lead then ballooned to 20 when Kurt Looby converted his second alley-oop dunk of the half resulting in a 44-24 lead for the Hawkeyes. Looby finished the evening with six points, eight rebounds, two steals and a block.
Martin added seven more points down the stretch for the Panthers yet late buckets by Angle and Jarryd Cole, who scored seven points of his own down the stretch, led Iowa to a 57-45 victory. Cole finished the game with 10 points and four rebounds.
Iowa converted 10 of 22 three-point goals. Jake Kelly led the Hawkeyes with four assists.
Iowa’s next game is on the road at Northern Iowa on Dec. 5.