June 20, 2012
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye iPhone app!
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye Android app!
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Our countdown of the 10 top Iowa men’s basketball games from 2011-12 continues today with a look back at Iowa’s exciting 64-61 win over Illinois in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. The win snapped a seven-game losing skid to the Fighting Illini.
Senior Matt Gatens sank two free throws with 10 seconds remaining to seal the Hawkeyes’ first Big Ten Tournament win since 2006. Iowa handed Illinois its first ever first-round loss in the tournament.
Entering the game, the Hawkeyes set out to slow Illinois center Meyers Leonard and win the rebounding battle. Leonard finished with 18 points and six rebounds, but only eight of those points and two of the boards came in the final 20 minutes. Iowa out-rebounded the Illini, 39-35, for the game, and 27-17 in the second half.
“We kept fighting and it was a little bit of a struggle in the first half,” UI head coach Fran McCaffery said. “We didn’t get Leonard under control, but we did a much better job in the second half.”
Illinois held seven-point leads twice in the second half: 40-33 with 16:49 remaining, and 44-37 with 14:14 left. The Hawkeyes went on a 13-2 run and took the lead for good at 48-46 with 11:30 remaining when Aaron White tipped in a miss by Josh Oglesby. The Hawkeyes extended their run to 20-6 after Gatens sank a field goal from the left side of the lane to go up 57-50 with 9:19 to go.
Gatens scored a team-high 20 points, with 11 coming in the second half. He also displayed his usual defensive prowess.
“It continues to amaze me that (Gatens) has the energy to play defense that way and still get it done at the other end of the floor,” McCaffery said. “He’s phenomenal.”
Twelve of Iowa’s points came at the free throw line (12-of-19); Illinois did not attempt a free throw. Gatens was 4-of-4 from the line during the final 37 seconds.
The final seven points for the Hawkeyes came from free throws. The last made field goal came from Gatens at the 9:19 mark.
Iowa shot 40.4 percent from the field (23-of-57), with six field goals coming from 3-point range. White scored 13 points with a game-high nine rebounds and three steals. He made 5-of-9 field goals, with two of those misses coming from long range. Point guard Bryce Cartwright handed out seven assists with just two turnovers in 33 minutes; Oglesby scored eight points with four rebounds in 17 minutes. Nine Hawkeyes played at least six minutes.
“The intensity level defensively in this game required us to play nine players and required us to get good play from all nine,” McCaffery said. “This is a real team victory.”
The last time Iowa won a game in the Big Ten Tournament was against Ohio State, 67-60, to win the championships in 2006.
Gatens made 4-of-5 field goals in the first half for nine points, but Iowa trailed by four at halftime, 31-27. Illinois’ D.J. Richardson extended a one-point lead by sinking his third 3-point field goal as time expired in the first half. The Hawkeyes shot 44 percent from the field (11-of-25) with five steals.
Iowa did an outstanding job crashing the boards, collecting 16 offensive rebounds, which are the second most by a Hawkeye team in a Big Ten Tournament contest.
Watch the highlights of the Hawkeyes’ Big Ten Tournament victory over Illinois by clicking HERE.
Check back next week as we look back at the sixth-best game.