Illinois Sneaks Past Iowa in Overtime

The University of Illinois Fighting Illini were tested for a full forty minutes and beyond for the first time this season on Thursday night by the visiting Iowa Hawkeyes. The Illini led the Hawkeyes by nine heading into the break, and were up as many as thirteen in the second half before Iowa went on a run to close the gap on the Illini. Iowa's Greg Brunner tied the score at 65 with 3.5 seconds left, sending the game to overtime. The Illini would eventually close out Iowa in overtime, 73-68.

I don't think the Illini like playing in front of Steve Lavin and Brent Musburger when they are ESPN broadcasters. The only other time that I can remember Lavin & Musburger being the TV commentators was when Illinois struggled against the Missouri Tigers in the Annual Busch Bragging Rights game, and that was one of three games that Illinois truly struggled throughout to muster a consistent effort against an opponent they should have been ready to play.

The Illini and the Hawkeyes both started out the game extremely cold from the field thanks to the defensive effort being put out by both teams. The Illini headed into the half with a nine point lead, but the final play of the half was indicative of how the second half would go for the Illini. On what should have been the final possession of the first half, Pierre Pierce drew an offensive foul from the Illini's Deron Williams, and then converted on Iowa's ensuing possession to cut the Illini lead to 34-25 heading into the half.

In the second half, Illinois jumped out to a 47-34 lead and looked to be getting ready to finish off the Hawkeyes, but after a Luther Head three-pointer with 14:41 left, the Hawkeyes went on an 18-5 keyed by their defense. After the Hawkeyes tied the game at 52, Illinois would lead the game until the final seconds.

Before heading into overtime, Illinois had two chances at the free throw line to seal the game, but Deron Williams missed two free throws, and Dee Brown missed one of two. The Hawkeyes used the Illini misses to tie the game by scoring five points on their final two possessions on a leaning three-pointer from Pierre Pierce and a slam dunk from Greg Brunner that tied the game. The Illini missed a full court shot on their final possession.

In overtime, the game was more of the same, defense, defense, and more defense. Iowa only scored three points in the third period due to the smothering Illini defense, especially Luther Head on Pierre Pierce. The Illini were only able to muster eight points in the five minutes, and six of those points were from the free throw line. The only basket Illinois made in the overtime period was Luther Head's runner that essentially cinched the game for the Illini.

ILLINI OFFENSE / DEFENSE BY THE NUMBERS
This game will be pretty interesting for me to break down. Without look at the numbers, I am wagering that this will be Illinois' worst offensive showing of the season. Watching the game, the Illini's offense was without a key component, motion. The lack of motion in the offense, and the missed shots was why Illinois only had twelve assists for the entire game, the lowest number so far this season.

Offensive Efficiency: 88.33
Defensive Efficiency: 82.28
Illinois' Points per Shot Attempt (Adjusted): 0.91
Iowa's Points per Shot Attempt (Adjusted): 1.03
Offensive Rebounding Percentage: 36.36%
Defensive Rebounding Percentage: 81.82%
Percent of Baskets Assisted: 54.55%

These numbers are pretty interesting, and it just shows how much defense was played on Thursday evening. The Illini and the Hawkeyes both came into the game trying to shut down the opposing backcourt, and they both succeeded, Illinois just did it a little better. The Illini forced 15 turnovers (Iowa had 22 on the game), and stopped Iowa from getting a shot on just over one quarter of their possessions. The Illini did not take much better care of the ball, as Iowa forced 7 turnovers out of the Illini's 18.

To say that defense of the name of the game on Thursday night would be correct.

Offensively, the only thing Illinois did well was rebound the basketball. The Illini pulled down just over thirty-six percent of their own missed shots, and they out rebounded Iowa by nine for the game. Defensive Illinois was also able to keep Iowa off the backboard, limiting the Hawkeyes to less than one shot per possession (thanks to turnovers).

RANDOM THOUGHTS
  • I don't think I have ever seen a worse combined performance from James Augustine and Roger Powell, Jr. in the last three years that they have been on the same team. Sure, they each have played bad games, but never quite like this. They combined to shoot 3-21 from the floor, a staggering 0.66 PPSA between the two players. They did combine for 21 rebounds on the evening, but both players seemed tentative to take the ball to the basket against Iowa's Erek Hansen, not what anyone would call an intimidating threat.
  • Illinois' Luther HeadLuther Head once again saved the Illini, both offensively and defensively. Luther was the only player on the Illini team that was able to create his own shot, and he did it whenever the Illini needed it. While Luther scored a game high 25 points, he shot 8-for-18 from the floor, only a PPSA of 1.19 (about 3 tenths of a point less than Luther's average).

    On defense, the Illini guard was tasked with shutting down Iowa's Pierre Pierce in the second half while Deron Williams sat on the bench with foul trouble. He did a very good job on Pierce, who was very quiet in the second half outside of the leaning three-point shot in the waning moments of regulation. The combination of Luther and Deron held Pierre to 22 points on 9-for-20 shooting, a PPSA of only 1.01 (above his season average), and 7 turnovers.
  • I am still waiting for someone to guard Greg Brunner. Will you please call me when the Illini decide to do it? I would appreciate knowing when he will have a body between him and the basket.

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