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NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Iowa vs Illinois Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa overcame 10 first-half turnovers and serious backcourt foul trouble to knock Illinois out of the Big Ten Tournament in a 96-87 win in Madison Square Garden.

The Hawkeyes played probably the loosest half of basketball all year in the first frame, as demonstrated by a 16-3 scoring run that gave Iowa an early 20-8 lead. Iowa’s aforementioned turnovers and 2 fouls apiece to Jordan Bohannon, Isaiah Moss and Maishe Dailey also demonstrate that looseness, forcing Tyler Cook and Luka Garza to generate the scoring early on.

And generate scoring they did.

Iowa led 35-31 at half, but it still felt Iowa was in the driver’s seat.

Illinois closed the gap time and again in the second frame but was never able to secure a lead over the Hawkeyes. Illini head coach Brad Underwood was assessed a technical foul 3 12 minutes in to the second half, leading to 4 Iowa points on free throws giving the Hawkeyes a 52-40 lead at the time.

A few minutes later the Illini surged to an 11-2 run putting them within 2 of the Black & Gold, but a Bohannon 3 after Iowa got its own rebound on an and-1 from Tyler Cook put the game just out of reach.

As bad as Iowa’s defense has been all year, things seemed to click on that end. Illinois’ leading scorer on the year Leron Black was held to just 4 points in the game while second-leading scorer Trent Frazier was held to 13. Illinois still found a way to score, though; Kipper Nichols finished the game with a career-high 31 points.

In a lot of ways, this was a totally uncharacteristic game for this Iowa team. While the Hawkeyes did turn it over 5 times in the first five minutes of the game, they turned it over just ... 8 times the entire second half. While Bohannon still got his (25 points while going 5-7 from three) Luka Garza had about as quiet a 20 points and 7 rebounds one can possibly have. Tyler Cook, as you saw above, still did Cook things ending with 19 points and 5 boards. Curiously, 7 of those points came from the charity stripe, where he shot 7-10.

FURTHERMORE, Iowa went bonkers from the line. In 41 (!) trips to the charity stripe, the Hawkeyes made 34 (!!!) of those attempts. It truly was a breath of fresh air. Illinois was whistled for 30 fouls, so obviously that helps. Overall Iowa was fanning flames all night; the Hawkeyes finished shooting 56 percent from the floor and at a 57 percent clip from range. Basketball was made fun again for one night in February.

For those of you wondering, Bohannon went 8-8 from the line, he’ll likely get another chance at Iowa’s free throw record, if he chooses.

Next up, the Hawkeyes take on Michigan Thursday at 1:30. We’ve had some ... struggles with the Wolverines this year, maybe a little fire in the belly is what this team needs to play to its potential.

Other notes:

  • Ahmad Wagner got some solid time, finishing with 3 boards, 3 points and 2 assists in 8 minutes. He had a knee-to-shin collision late in the game and was sidelined afterward, it’s unclear if his injury is serious.
  • Iowa out-rebounded Illinois 40-20. At least 20 second-chance points helps!
  • Iowa’s 96 points are a school record for a BTT game.