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Breaking down Iowa basketball’s 72-65 win over Illinois

Hours before the Super Bowl, Iowa basketball grinded out another top-25 win in Carver.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

No. 18 Iowa basketball’s climb in the Big Ten standings continued on Sunday when it took down No. 19 Illinois 72-65, snapping the Illini’s seven-game winning streak.

It wasn’t easy, much like the last four Hawkeye wins. In fact, the last four Iowa wins have come by seven points or fewer.

Here’s a closer look at Iowa’s win over Illinois.

Iowa’s bench was nowhere to be found

Ryan Kriener, Bakari Eveylin, Cordell Pemsl, and Riley Till combined to score 0 points. Iowa’s bench went 0-for-5 from the field, turned the ball over three times, and committed six fouls.

The Illini outscored the Hawkeye bench 29-0. Andres Feliz scored 17 points to lead the way.

There was just no offense from Iowa’s second unit. Pemsl did have four assists (good) but committed a pair of turnovers in 12 minutes (bad).

One of the biggest surprises was Kriener, who had a 15-game scoring streak snapped. He posted a -10 plus/minus against Illinois.

This was the worst showing from Iowa’s bench so far this season, yet the Hawkeyes managed to pull out another top-25 win in Carver. Look at it from a glass-half-full perspective — the bench won’t score fewer points in another game this season.

Luka Garza’s shooting range was on full display

Sunday’s win came with yet another double-double from Luka Garza (25 points, 10 rebounds). And while Garza did his usual work in the paint, he showed off from 3-point range, too.

Garza knocked down a career-best four 3-pointers in the win. In total, he took nine shots from downtown — a huge leap from his previous season-high in attempts (five).

How much of a role did Garza’s 3-point shooting play? He had more 3-pointers than Joe Wieskamp and CJ Fredrick combined.

For as dominant as Garza has been inside, confidence in his outside game has taken a major leap. In the first two years of Garza’s Hawkeye career, he had four games with four or more 3-pointers. This year, he has seven.

Connor McCaffery had one of his best performances in Big Ten play this season

Connor McCaffery stuffed the stat sheet Sunday. The guard finished with nine points, seven assists, three rebounds, three steals, and did not commit a turnover.

McCaffery also made three of his five 3-pointers (!!!). Talk about a game. He stepped up into a shooter’s role when Wieskamp and Garza were on the bench. Sunday marked the first time in McCaffery’s career in which he made three 3-pointers and assisted on more than four baskets in a single game.

CJ Fredrick was once again Mr. Efficient

CJ Fredrick scored 18 points on six-for-eight shooting. It was his second-best shooting performance of his Hawkeye career. This season, Fredrick has eight games in which he’s shot 60 percent or better from the field.

Fredrick’s 51.7 field-goal percentage ranks just behind Garza for second-best out of Iowa’s starters this season. He leads the team with a sizzling 46.9 percent from 3-point range.

Fredrick has so much confidence in his shot. When he’s cooking, it’s a thing of beauty.

Illinois made just two shots in the final five minutes

Similar to how Iowa turned it on late in the second half of its win over Wisconsin, Illinois struggled to score in the closing minutes on Sunday.

Illinois went up by four after Andres Feliz scored on a layup. But Iowa went on a 6-0 run in essentially a minute to lead by two at the 4:32 mark.

Feliz hit another shot, a 3-pointer with 4:03_ left in the game, and then Ayo Dosunmu hit a garbage 3-pointer. But credit to the Hawkeye offense for hitting shots and the defense for putting the clamps on the Illini.

The Hawkeyes have taken down four top-25 teams in their last five home games

On Sunday, it was No. 19 Illinois, but before that, Iowa beat No. 12 Maryland, No. 19 Michigan, and No. 24 Rutgers in Carver. Iowa’s lone win against a non-ranked opponent during that span was Wisconsin on Jan. 27.

The Hawkeyes are 11-1 at home this season and haven’t lost since a 93-78 defeat against DePaul on Nov. 11, 2019.

What’s next for Iowa basketball?

Iowa hits the road to face Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana, on Wednesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT. The game is on the Big Ten Network.