Hey guys! Iowa basketball won its first Big Ten game tonight! What’s that? It was against Illinois, who is also winless in the conference? WHO CARES!
The Hawkeyes traveled to Champaign and came away with a 104-97 win over the Fighting Illini in OT. The win keeps Iowa from going below .500.
Honestly, this game should have ended in regulation, but a Trent Frazier last second heave sent the game to an overtime period that was all Iowa for five minutes.
Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise, the game ball goes to Luka Garza tonight. The freshman played easily the best game of his young Iowa career, earning his first double-double thanks to 19 points and 11 rebounds, seven of those coming from the offensive glass. He also added in a steal and a block for good measure, and EVEN WENT 9-9 FROM THE CHARITY STRIPE!
This was the type of performance we expected to see from Garza all. It took longer than we expected, but it’s good to be here regardless. The second chance points he created alone were crucial, but the ice in his veins at the free throw line was even better.
It feels good to win, especially considering how ugly the game was at the start. An early 4-0 Iowa lead turned into a 13-0 run that essentially put Iowa out of the game five minutes in. The Hawkeyes went five minutes without scoring before an atrocious Nick Baer airball lead to a Cordell Pemsl rebound and layup.
It was 24-13 with 12 minutes left in the first half, and when have we seem this team come back from any sort of deficit? If I could have turned it off then, I would have, because it got worse. The Hawkeyes got one more bucket before the Illini ripped off another run while the Hawkeyes couldn’t score. The lead swelled to as many as 20 with just under four minutes remaining in the half.
The Hawkeyes chipped away at the lead, and entered the half down 13. It could be worse, people said, and I laughed.
But I was wrong.
The second half was a different story. A 10-0 run to start things off forced an Illinois timeout and brought the lead down to three. We had a ballgame, folks! But even then, I continued to doubt. Within a minute, the Illinois lead was back to seven, and I flashed back to a week ago tonight, when Iowa started off strong against the Buckeyes before ending up getting smoked.
And yet, the Illinois lead continued to diminish. And then Luka Garza happened. The freshman ripped up an 8-0 run all of his own, capped off with a scream of Let’s fucking go! that was very easy to read on his lips. Suddenly, the Hawks had a lead they would never relinquish.
Seriously, this was a completely different team in the second half. They moved the ball well, found open shooters and also created their own shots. They switched up the defensive scheme and actually stuck with it for once. They out-rebounded the Illini 45-26, and it was a difference maker. They drove the lane and got into the double bonus with over four minutes left in regulation. Sure, Maishe Dailey could have sealed the game in regulation had he made both his FTs with nine seconds left, but overall, it was a solid night for the team at the line, going 33-40(!).
Then came overtime, and Iowa never looked back. A huge Jordan Bohannon 3-pointer to make the score 99-90 sealed the deal after some free throws and a Tyler Cook dunk.
Statistically, it was a good night for a lot of Hawkeyes. Jordan Bohannon dropped 29 on 7-of-16 shooting, and went 10-10 at the line. Nick Baer had 10 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists. Tyler Cook had his second double-double of the year, thanks to 21 points and 13 rebounds. Ryan Kreiner was even a pivotal part of the comeback. He did a bit of everything in his limited playing time, scoring 5 points, grabbing four rebounds, and tallying a block and assist for good measure.
Sure, it was a battle for 13th place in the Big Ten. Sure, it’s only one conference win. But a 20-point comeback could be a big spark for this team. If Jordan Bohannon can almost drop 30 points and not be the story of the game, that’s a good thing.
This was a team that, for the first time all season, faced a deficit, and a large one at that, and fought back for a win. That’s gotta be good for morale.
It doesn’t matter who it’s against. A win is a win, and I think a lot of things tonight will act as building blocks for the rest of the season.