Painfully Close

Close, but no cigar. Iowa's bid to upset top-ranked Illinois fell painfully short for the second time this season. The Hawkeyes could not overcome 21 turnovers, despite winning the battle of the boards 36-21 and making 21 of 26 from the free throw line. Iowa closed to within three points with 2:44 to go in the game, but the nation's best team countered with three point shots from Dee Brown and Nick Smith to win the game 75-65.


I can't tell you how many times I have written this over the last three seasons, but I will write it again.

Iowa (4-8, 16-9) played a gritty, tough game on Saturday, but in the end they just did not have the horses to pull out the win.

The Hawkeyes gave top-ranked Illinois (13-0, 27-0) all that they bargained for and trailed by just three points with 2:44 to go in the game after falling behind by 12 points early in second the half.

However, 21 Iowa turnovers compared to just 10 for Illinois wound up being the difference in this ball game, as the Hawkeyes fell to Illinois 75-65 in front of a sold out and partially orange clad Carver Hawkeye Arena.

As they have done all year, the Illini answered every Iowa run with a min-run of their own, proving why they are the nation's best team.

The Hawkeyes actually dominated the glass in this game, outrebounding Illinois 36 to 21. Iowa also made 21 of 26 free throws on the day, scoring three more points from the line than did Illinois.

Adam Haluska kept the Hawkeyes in the game late with several key shots, and he led Iowa in scoring with 20 points. He also had seven rebounds. Greg Brunner scored 15 points and had a game high nine rebounds. Jeff Horner scored 12 points and had a team high six assists, but also committed five turnovers.

Mike Henderson and Carlton Reed, the two players who have been asked to fill the void left by Pierre Pierce, combined to commit eight turnovers and scored just four points. Iowa has committed at least 19 turnovers in three of their last four games against Illinois.

Illinois scored 23 points off of Iowa's turnovers where Iowa scored just seven points off of Illini miscues.


It's hard watching these players try so hard and give so much effort only to come up short more often than not. It has to be 10 times as hard on the players who are playing the games.

As much as Iowa fans feel for the players and support their players, the reality is that Iowa is now faced with a difficult scenario if they want to have a shot at an NCAA bid; they have to win their final four regular season games, at least.

Three of those four games are on the road and Iowa has yet to win a Big Ten road game this season.

This tall task begins Wednesday with a trip to the Barn in Minneapolis to play a Golden Gopher team that is also fighting for its tournament life, then a trip out to Penn State. Iowa returns home to host Ohio State before closing out the season against slumping Michigan.

Each of those games is winnable, but no Iowa team coached by Steve Alford has ever won four consecutive Big Ten games.

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