Iowa 77, Illinois 65
Before the season, both these teams were expected to finish in the Nos. 7 through 9 range in the Big Ten. One team has stayed healthy and had some breakout performers, while the other has experienced a rash of injuries (including now to its recruits) and disappointment.
One of these teams evolved into a Big Ten title contender, the other deteriated into a Big Ten cellar dweller. The title contender rolled on Super Bowl Sunday at the State Farm Center.
With the win, Iowa (19-4, 10-1 Big Ten) stays atop the Big Ten standings, a game ahead of Maryland. With the loss, Illinois (11-13, 3-8 Big Ten) is tied for 11th with Penn State, which upset Indiana at home on Saturday.
Breakout junior Peter Jok led Iowa with 23 points. Big Ten Player of the Year frontrunner Jared Uthoff added 18 points and 12 rebounds, and senior center Adam Woodbury added 10 points (5-for-6 shooting) and 14 rebounds.
Iowa crushed Illinois in on second-chance points (26 to 6) and on the boards (43 to 32). The Illini shot 39 percent from the field, including 8-for-25 from three (32 percent). Iowa shot 43 percent from the field, including 8-for-20 from three (40 percent).
Freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands led the Illini with 17 points on 6-for-13 shooting, including 5-for-11 from three. Junior Malcolm Hill had 14 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Maverick Morgan added 10 points and seven rebounds.
Kendrick Nunn was held to six points on 2-for-13 shooting, his first game in single-digits this season. After missing Wednesday's game at Rutgers due to a knee contusion, Michael Finke had five points and four rebounds in 17 minutes.
Illinois took a 6-4 lead but Iowa went on a 12-0 run, ultimately claiming a 38-29 halftime lead.
The Illini missed their first 11 two-point shot attempts of the game, and Iowa had 12 second-chance points before the Illini had any.
What it means
This wasn't an X's and O's loss. It was a personnel loss. The Illini have too many injuries to key players in the post and too big a roster hole at point guard due to recruiting to compete with an elite Big Ten team like Iowa. The Hawkeyes are longer, stronger, deeper. They are in the running for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Illinois needs to win four Big Ten Tournament games to make the NCAA Tournament. Sunday just proved where each program truly stands. Illinois battled. It just didn't have the ammo, especially with one of its stars broken.
What went right
Coleman-Lands continues to show that he's one of the Big Ten's best freshman guards. He already has proved to be an elite three-point shooter. It'll be exciting to see what he can do with an offseason -- he missed the entire last offseason due to a stress fracture in his lower left leg -- especially with more work on his midrange game and running off ball screens.
Morgan had another nice game. He's far from a perfect player (you wish he had more toughness), but he's vastly improved with his big increase in playing time. He looks like a solid contributor for the final 40-something games of his Illini career.
D.J. Williams showed some flashes with his late playing time. He made a nice runner, a jumper and had an athletic putback. He gave the Illini a much-needed energy boost off the bench and has earned some extra playing time moving forward. He has the tools. He just needs to put them all together. That'll take experience and confidence, both a product of time.
What went wrong
Kendrick Nunn is in some kind of funk. Over the last three games, the Illini junior guard is 10-for-40 (25 percent) shooting. Part of it may be due to his hip injury. But that does not excuse poor decision-making. He's forcing way too many bad, contested, out-of-rhythm shots early in the shot clock. With so few scoring options, the Illini can't afford one of its two stars to struggle so much.
Illinois again was dominated in the post. Woodbury and Uthoff dominated the glass, and the Illini continue to miss injured, elite rebounders Leron Black and Mike Thorne Jr., who are both out with meniscus injuries.
Michael Finke obviously was limited due to the knee contusion suffered last week.
Iowa's length limited Hill's ability to get open looks as well, as he attempted just nine field goal attempts -- his lowest total during Big Ten play. Also, Hill picked up his fourth foul with 14:16 left in the second half on a too-aggressive reach in on Uthoff.
The Illini again struggled to score inside the arc in the first half. They don't have the point guard to create easy buckets for himself or others, and they lack the post players to get easy buckets on putbacks. It's mostly a personnel issue.
Star of the game
Peter Jok: While Uthoff was the man on the cover of Sports Illustrated (well-deserved, by the way), Jok's emergence is a big reason Iowa is leading the Big Ten. He was the X-factor entering the season and has emerged as an All-Big Ten First Team possibility. His second half buried the Illini's chances.
The Illini get a bit of a respite to try and heal and regroup before heading to Evanston for Saturday's 7 p.m. tipoff (Big Ten Network) at Northwestern. After rolling through a weak nonconference schedule and starting the season 13-1, the Wildcats (16-8, 4-7) have come back down to earth from early NCAA Tournament buzz. Chris Collins' team has just two wins over top-100 KenPom teams (Wisconsin and Nebraska), but they have beaten all but one opponent outside the top-100 (Penn State). This appears an evenly-matched game, but the Wildcats are playing better and have one of the Big Ten's better point guards (Bryant McIntosh).