CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The 18th-ranked University of Iowa men’s basketball team couldn’t complete a big second-half comeback, falling 78-76 to No. 23 Illinois on Sunday at the State Farm Center.
The Hawkeyes trailed 64-48 with 11:32 remaining before closing strong. Junior Luka Garza scored 10 straight Iowa points before two Connor McCaffery 3-pointers cut the deficit to 72-65 with 4:06 remaining.
Senior Bakari Evelyn made it a 74-70 game with a 3-pointer in transition with 2:21 remaining. Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu hit two pull-up jumpers in the final two minutes, the second of which made the score 78-74 with 53 seconds to play.
A Garza dunk made it a 78-76 game with 17 seconds left, before Iowa fouled Dosunmu with 14 seconds remaining. He missed the front end of the 1-on-1, giving the Hawkeyes a chance.
McCaffery drove to the basket, missed a jumper, got his rebound, and missed again in traffic. Iowa got the offensive rebound and had another look. The Hawkeyes in-bounded the ball to Garza in the paint, but his attempt didn’t make it to the rim as it was Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn got his hand on the attempt.
After going into the half tied at 41, Illinois scored 12 of 17 points to build a 53-46 lead at the 16:06 mark. Iowa scored two points — on two Joe Wieskamp free throws — over the next 4 1/2 minutes as Illinois built a 64-48 lead.
Iowa lost despite having a higher field goal percentage (50 to 49.2), making two more 3-pointers (9-to-7), winning the rebounding battle (32-to-30), and going 15-of-15 from the free throw stripe.
Garza led all scorers with 28 points, making 12-of-21 field goals and pulling down eight rebounds. Freshman Joe Toussaint scored 14 points, while McCaffery finished with 10 points, eight assists, and five rebounds.
Dosunmu led Illinois with 17 points, while four Illini finished in double figures.
Quoting Head Coach Fran McCaffery
“We stayed the course. You’re on the road, you have to execute down the stretch on both ends. We had a stretch where we were getting stops, but couldn’t get a rebound. We started to get the rebounds and we could run our transition, call a set or call motion and get the ball moving. Our execution was excellent coming down the stretch.”
- Tonight’s loss snapped an Iowa five-game win streak over Illinois.
- Iowa finished the regular season tied for fifth place in the Big Ten, marking the seventh time in eight years that Fran McCaffery guided Iowa to an upper division conference finish.
- National Player of the Year candidate Luka Garza poured in a game-best 28 points tonight to lead the Hawkeyes. Garza scored 20+ points the last 16 games of the regular season to tie Fred Brown’s school record set in 1971 for most consecutive overall games with 20+ points. Garza’s 16-game streak of 20+ points against Big Ten competition is the longest by any player since Ohio State’s Dennis Hopson (16) in 1987. Garza topped 25 points the last three contests and 13 times this season.
- Luka Garza is the fourth player nationally since 2007 to amass 700+ points, 300+ rebounds, 50+ blocks, and 35+ 3-pointers in a season (Frank Kaminsky, 2015; Michael Beasley, 2008; Kevin Durant, 2007).
- Luka Garza (26.2 ppg) is Iowa’s first scoring leader in Big Ten games only since Adam Haluska (21.3 ppg) in 2007. Garza is the first player to average at least 26 points in Big Ten play since Purdue’s Glenn Robinson in 1994 (31.1 ppg).
- Connor McCaffery tied a career high with eight assists to go along with 10 points. The last time McCaffery had eight assists was versus Illinois on March 14, 2019.
- Freshman Joe Toussaint had 14 points, his highest point total since 14 against Rutgers on Jan. 22.
- Tonight was the fourth time in five games, and 12th time this season, that Iowa played a game against a ranked opponent.
Iowa will begin postseason play as the No. 5 seed at the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis. The Hawkeyes will begin play on Thursday at approximately 1:30 p.m. (CT) against Minnesota/Northwestern.