Game of Runs
It seemed like these teams were just trading blows throughout the entire game. One team would go on a 9-0 run, then a few minutes later the other team would do the same. Illinois went nearly 6 minutes in the first half without scoring and the Hawkeyes did something similar later on in the game. You could kind of tell that whichever team went on a good run last, was going to find a way to pull the thing out. And that is exactly what Illinois did. They got a few easy baskets and hit a couple of three pointers, which were ultimately the nail in the coffin. The Hawkeyes cost themselves by not extending out a lead in the first half with Illinois going over a fourth of the half without even scoring a point.
I thought there was a lot of good that came from the press, but a lot of bad did as well. The second half was really when I noticed Iowa turning Illinois over. The Illini had jumped out to a 5 or 6 point lead at one point and then Fran McCaffery went long. He had Christian Williams, Peter Jok, Nicholas Baer, Ahmad Wagner, and Tyler Cook on the floor together and the length, hustle, and athleticism of that group forced a couple of Illini turnovers and then those lead to run-outs for the Hawkeyes. John Groce did a good job killing any run that Iowa might be going on by calling timeout before things got too bad. Then on the other hand the Hawkeyes did give up some wide open layups underneath the basket because of the hustle and the trapping out front. You can take the good with the bad, but I thought Iowa may have over-pursued on some possessions. I recall on one possession they were triple teaming Te'Jon Lucas out front with a wide open Illini forward under the basket. Lucas ultimately found him and that lead to two easy points.
Second Half Woes
Iowa's second half was just not one of the finer halves we've seen from them. They let Illinois shoot 55% from the field and only shot 31% themselves. That is not a winning formula. Combine the easy looks underneath the basket with Illinois hitting 6 threes - most of which were wide open - and Iowa was digging themselves a hole. The press had them in scramble mode on defense for a few possessions and that led to not locating shooters. And you have to give the Illini credit, they did a good job of settling themselves down and finding open guys. Those guys then hit the shots they normally hit. That was not the case for Iowa, however. I thought they did a good job on offense, but guys that normally hit open shots were not. Nicholas Baer had a few open looks late in the game. He shot just 3-of-10 from the field. Brady Ellingson missed a few that he normally knocks down and even Peter Jok missed a couple that I thought were going in. The Hawkeyes can't continue to struggle to make shots because it isn't winning them any games anytime soon.
Foul Trouble for Cook
Tyler Cook, with the exception of Peter Jok and his double-double, was the best Hawkeye on the floor yesterday. He was getting whatever he wanted on the block and the Illini didn't have an answer for him. Iowa needed him to stay on the floor. Only issue is, he couldn't. He was whistled for a few fouls that I thought were pretty ticky tack, but they were whistled fouls for a reason. I think he may have gotten a little too amped up on a few possessions with Iowa pressing and him wanting to make a play happen. But Tyler showed quite a bit of emotion after a few of his fouls, which he normally never does. So, that should tell you a little bit of something right there. He's just a beast on offense, but his rebounding and defense still are going to need work. If Tyler improves in those areas, he's going to be a damn good Hawkeye.
With that loss, well, that probably puts Iowa on the outside looking in if we're talking about the NIT. They have Indiana at home on Tuesday, which is a team that can definitely beat the Hawkeyes inside Carver. However, Iowa can definitely beat them as well. It's a toss up at this point. They then visit Wisconsin and Maryland before wrapping up the season in Iowa City against Penn State, which is another team that battles hard in games. Iowa has the potential to beat Maryland and Wisconsin, but doing it on the road probably isn't likely at this point. They should win the final two home games, but even if they split the four at 2-and-2, I still don't see them getting into the NIT. Not unless they make it to Sunday of the Big Ten Tournament. But with the way the Big Ten has been this year, Iowa can both make it to Sunday or be bounced in the first round. Both are possibilities.