By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The numbers looked good for the University of Iowa men’s basketball team Saturday. Senior Peter Jok tallied a double-double and the Hawkeyes grabbed 10 offensive rebounds, forced 17 turnovers, and led for nearly 26 minutes.
Illinois closed the final 2 ½ minutes on a 10-4 run and escaped Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a 70-66 victory. In the process, the Illini (15-12 overall, 5-9 Big Ten) became the only team this season to record a regular-season sweep over Iowa (14-13, 6-8).
Jok scored 16 points with 10 rebounds, but what stuck out to him after the game was one of his five turnovers that resulted in a layup and a four-point lead by the Illini with 3:31 to play.
“There were some sloppy plays, starting with me,” Jok said. “I had that turnover that ended up in a layup (by Malcom Hill) — that was a huge turn-around. We didn’t execute as a team at the end. We had a couple good looks at the end that did not go in with (Nicholas) Baer and Brady (Ellingson), but that’s the game of basketball.”
Iowa used a 9-0 run in the first half to go from six points down to being ahead, 15-12. In the second half the Hawkeyes went on an 8-0 spurt to turn a 50-46 deficit into a 54-50 lead.
The teams combined for 54 points in the first half with Iowa on top, 29-25. It was the lowest first-half point total in a Hawkeye game since Dec. 17 when they led Northern Iowa at the break, 34-16. Iowa made 11-of-22 field goals (3-of-6 3-pointers) and 4-of-5 free throws, while limiting Illinois to 39-percent shooting from the field, 27 percent from distance, and no free throws.
The script was flipped in the second half. Illinois heated up and made 16-of-29 field goals (55 percent), while the Hawkeyes shot 10-of-32 (31 percent) — and slipped to their third straight setback.
“You look at it as intelligently as possible,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “(Rebounding and forcing turnovers) were good things. What were bad things? Well, (Illinois shooting) 55 percent in the second half, there were other mistakes that we made, and there were mistakes that individuals made that we want to make sure they don’t make again; that they learn from it.”
Iowa freshman Tyler Cook, who scored the game’s first bucket, finished with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting; freshman Jordan Bohannon, who was held scoreless Feb. 11 at Michigan State, added 11 points and was 3-of-4 from 3-point range. Baer scored eight points with seven rebounds.
“I don’t think we ran out of gas,” Baer said. “When you’re pressing the whole game you are going to be more tired, but that being said, that is no excuse not to execute. (Illinois was) tired, too, and they executed better than we did down the stretch.”
A 3-point field goal by Bohannon with 13:13 left in the half started Iowa’s 9-0 run that spanned 5 minutes, 15 seconds. It erased a 12-6 deficit and put the Hawkeyes on top, 15-12. Cook, sophomore Christian Williams, and freshman Cordell Pemsl contributed to the scoring spurt.
Jok’s 3-pointer with 5:50 left in the first half built Iowa’s lead to 22-16, brought fans to their feet, and drew a timeout from Illinois head coach John Groce. The Hawkeyes turned up the defense on Illinois’ ensuing possession and forced a shot clock violation. They forced two shot clock and one 10-second call in the first half.
At halftime the teams had combined for 22 field goals (11 each) and 21 turnovers (11 by Iowa, 10 by Illinois).
The Hawkeyes enjoyed their largest lead at the 2:59 mark of the first half at 26-18 after Cook made two free throws. Baer built the margin back to six with a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left in the half, but Illinois’ Hill made a layup with 0:01 remaining, tightening the score and foreshadowing what was to come during the final 20 minutes.
Illinois was led by Hill with 21 points (10 in the second half) and eight rebounds. He added four assists and two steals. The Illini won the first meeting, 76-64, on Jan. 25 in Champaign, Illinois.
The Hawkeyes remain home Tuesday when they face Indiana (15-12, 5-9) with an 8 p.m. (CT) tip. The Hoosiers have lost four in a row and six of their last seven games.