Feb. 1, 2014
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By JAMES ALLAN
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — If there was a question about the No. 12/15 University of Iowa men’s basketball team’s toughness, the Hawkeyes did their part to repair their image.
Iowa built a 21-point first-half lead, fell behind by five points with nine minutes to play before scoring 20-of-the-final-28 points to rally for an 81-74 victory over Illinois on Saturday night inside the State Farm Center. The victory is the Hawkeyes’ first in Champaign since 1999.
“We had some stretches where we came apart a little bit, but that happens on the road,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery. “I couldn’t be prouder of our toughness.”
Senior Roy Devyn Marble paced a trio of Iowa players in double digits, finishing with 17 points — all in the second half — on 5-of-12 shooting and a 6-of-8 performance from the charity stripe. Junior Gabriel Olaseni posted his fourth double-double, scoring career-highs in points (15) and rebounds (12). He made 3-of-5 field goals, 9-of-10 free throws and had nine offensive boards.
Junior Aaron White score 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go along with six rebounds. Sophomore Mike Gesell added eight points, while sophomore Jarrod Uthoff and senior Zach McCabe scored seven points apiece. Iowa’s bench out-scored Illinois’ reserves, 32-15.
The Hawkeyes shot 46.4 percent (26-of-56) from the floor and made 24-of-30 attempts (80 percent) from the charity stripe. Iowa dominated the Illini on the glass, 41-28, with 15 offensive rebounds, which led to a 32-15 advantage in second-chance points.
“Fifteen offensive rebounds is a big number, especially with the way they were scoring,” said McCaffery.
Illinois shot 44.6 percent (25-of-56) from the field, 6-of-15 (40 percent) from long range and 18-of-23 (78.3 percent) from the free throw line. Three Illini players reached double digits with Joseph Bertrand pacing the team with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
After taking a 40-36 lead into the half, Iowa pushed its advantage to 49-42 on a Marble steal and a White fast-break layup with 17:04 left in the game. The Illini followed with seven-straight points to tie the game at 49 before the two offenses went wild.
There were five ties and seven lead changes over the next five minutes before Illinois grabbed a 62-61 advantage courtesy of a Tracy Abrams 3-pointer. The Illini then stretched its advantage to 66-61 with 9:02 left on consecutive layups from Bertrand and Rayvonte Rice.
“Coach McCaffery asked us what it was going to be,” said Olaseni. “We could have gone either way. We could have easily lost this game, but we had great leadership from Devyn and Aaron. There wasn’t a panic; it was more of a refocus. It was more saying we are going to win this game instead of we can’t lose this game.”
Facing its largest deficit of the game, the Hawkeyes got a key 3-pointer from Marble to make the score 66-64 before Olaseni made a pair of free throws to tie the game at 66 with 7:25 remaining. Rice put Illinois back up four (70-66) with four-straight free throws.
A Marble layup tied the game at 70 with 4:24 to play before Gesell connected on a jumper to put Iowa back on top 72-70 with 3:50 left. Clinging to a 73-72 lead, Marble’s steal and old-school three-point play with 1:39 left gave Iowa a 76-72 lead.
With under a minute to play, an Olaseni offensive rebound iced the game. With the shot clock winding down, Josh Oglesby was off the mark on a 3-point attempt, but Olaseni came out of nowhere to secure the rebound, forcing Illinois to foul. Iowa made 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to run out 81-74 winners.
“I have to give it up to coach Andrew Francis,” said Olaseni. “He always says you don’t get rebounds just standing there, you have to go get them. I told myself if it came off, I was going to fight and get it, and I was happy to make a play.”
After jumping out to a 6-5 lead over the first four minutes of the game, Iowa blitzed the Illini. The Hawkeyes used back-to-back 3-pointers from McCabe and Oglesby to take a 12-5 advantage. A White jumper at the 10:46 mark opened a 19-9 Iowa lead.
Following a Maverick Morgan free throw, the Hawkeyes scored eight straight points and 13-of-16 points to break open a 34-13 lead. Basabe had consecutive field goals — a layup and tip-in — to make the score 29-10 and a Uthoff 3-pointer and a pair of Adam Woodbury free throws pushed the advantage to 21 points.
When it was all said and done, Iowa’s run was 28-8.
Illinois started chipping away. A Jon Ekey 3-pointer made the score 34-18 with 5:53 left in the half and a Rice layup trimmed the lead to 36-26 with 2:41 to play. Following a pair of Olaseni free throws, Illinois got consecutive 3-pointers from Malcom Hill and Kendrick Nunn to cut the deficit to 38-34.
“We got ahead of ourselves,” said Olaseni. “We started looking at the score, stopped getting away from what we did and didn’t get consecutive defensive stops. At halftime, coach broke it down and said we had to refocus and do what we do.”
The Hawkeyes led 40-36 at the break after making 11-of-28 field goals and 15-of-17 free throws. Iowa dominated the rebounding battle, 25-12, with nine offensive rebounds, which led to a 14-0 advantage in second-chance points.
The Hawkeyes (17-5, 6-3) return to action Tuesday, hosting No. 23/24 Ohio State on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena beginning at 6 p.m. (CT).