Illinois Bombs Iowa, 78-59

The Iowa Hawkeyes needed a strong showing down the stretch run of this Big Ten season if they wanted a shot at an NCAA at large bid. After Wednesday's 78-59 thrashing at the hands of Illinois, Iowa's bubble may have burst. Illinois looked every bit like a team competing for yet another Big Ten championship, while the Iowa Hawkeyes had few answers.

The only good news that came out of Iowa's 78-59 home court thrashing at the hands of Illinois on Wednesday night is that they are still in fourth place in the Big Ten conference.

But that is only because Purdue was idle.

Illinois dominated the Hawkeyes in nearly every facet of the game. The 19 point win was the third largest margin of victory that Illinois has ever enjoyed in Iowa City and their biggest winning margin ever in Carver Hawkeye Arena, a building that had not been kind to them prior to Wednesday's game.

It's amazing to consider that had Iowa won this game, they would have been just one game back of Illinois in the conference standings.

But the chasm between these two programs is as wide as the Grand Canyon.

Iowa, playing with just six scholarship players in their rotation, did not look like they belonged in the same league with the athletic and tough-minded Illini on this night.

The Hawkeyes were coming off of a week's rest, so fatigue cannot be used as an excuse.

Defense was the main factor that decided the outcome of this game. Illinois had plenty of it, and Iowa did not.

Illini defenders did not allow the Hawkeye offense to get into any kind of flow in this contest, as they were guarding out to 22-feet and beyond all evening long.

Iowa allowed too many second chance points in this game, a fear they held coming into the contest as the Hawkeyes are not deep and they are certainly not big.

Illinois outscored Iowa 38-26in the paint on the evening and while Illinois committed five more turnovers than Iowa, they converted 11 Iowa gaffes into 19 points while Iowa only scored eight points off of 16 Illini turnovers.

Illinois' athleticism was on display, per usual, while Iowa was forced to chuck shots from the cheap seats.

If this sounds too negative, I certainly apologize, but the contrast in programs was that great on Wednesday.

Iowa held its own in Champaign, and they had played well coming into this ball game.

Maybe it was just the fact that they ran into a team with more talent that was also playing the best basketball of its season.

It was a clean ballgame for the most part, with Illinois showing some class at the end of the game, holding onto the ball and committing a shot clock violation instead of hoisting another shot.

There was no animosity between these two teams on the court, just a large talent differential.

Jeff Horner (20 points) and Dee Brown (18 points, 10 assists and one turnover in 27 minutes) went after one another all night long and butted heads on several plays, but they each gave one another pats on the back, letting the other know that it was all in the spirit of the game.

There is no longer a villain, or a ‘grudge' factor when these two teams meet, or so it seems.

But when you have taken five of the last seven games in this series, and you are winning Big Ten championships while your opponent has not posted a winning conference record since 1999, it's easy to be magnanimous.

Iowa has become just another game on Illinois' schedule and their seemingly annual march towards conference championships.

And that might be the saddest thing of all.


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