Alfonso Plummer and Jacob Grandison scored 21 apiece to give the Illini a spotless conference record two games into the Big Ten slate in a 87-83 win over Iowa.
A sleepy start saw the Hawks staring down the barrel of a 10-point deficit around seven minutes into the matchup. Then a lineup change slammed the door shut on the Illini, as the backups surged Iowa to a 21-2 Iowa run and a 9-point lead.
Tony Perkins was instrumental during this stretch, notching 11 points and a steal.
The lead would dissipate quickly, however. This gassed group likely stayed on about a minute too long, and turned around to allow the Illini a 12-3 run of its own, to help make it a 39-36 Illinois advantage at the break.
Back-to-back Keegan Murray layups gave Iowa a brief lead to open the second frame, but then Kofi Cockburn really began to exploit his size advantage down low. He worked Filip Rebraca and whoever else Iowa threw his way all night.
Illinois really just outshot, out-physicaled and out-rebounded the Hawkeyes the rest of the night to cruise to an easy victory. A 10-0 scoring run for Illinois that stretched through the midsection of the second half made a 15-point lead insurmountable, despite good hustle from Ahron Ulis and a brief defensive spark that saw Illinois commit its third 10-second violation of the night—and second in consecutive possessions.
The Hawkeyes turned those violations into four points thanks to Pat McCaffery getting fouled on a made three-pointer, and all of a sudden it was 9-point ballgame.
Two Cockburn free throws put the lid on a 7-1 Iowa run at 65-57 with just over five minutes to go.
Illinois just ate up every single missed shot for either team the rest of the night, as Cockburn feasted and the Illini ended with a 51-23 rebound advantage. Thirty-three of those were defensive. Which is offensive.
Whenever Iowa found a little scoring spark, Plummer or Cockburn would be there to put out the flame. When Keegan Murray knocked down his first three of the night then stole it for a slam... he actually scored six more to make it 8 straight himself in the during a 30 second stretch to make it a 3 point game with 2 1⁄2 minutes to go.
With 1:33 to go, Keegan got back to the line to keep it a one-possession contest. Alfonso Plummer then knocked down a deep ball and sealed the deal as Iowa was forced to foul the night away.
- Before Keegan Murray went red-hot in the second half, he was 0-4 from the floor and 1-5 from the charity stripe.
- Overall, Iowa wasn’t great from the line, going 13-19, but it felt worse.
- Iowa had 26 points off 18 turnovers, while giving it away only 4 times. Just a bonkers stat to record and still lose.
- Ahron Ulis had a great night, with 11 points, 7 assists and 3 steals in just 24 minutes.
- Kofi Cockburn had just 3 points and 6 boards half. He ended with 17 & 18.