Change-up: Iowa Coach Steve Alford inserted center Erek Hansen back into the starting lineup after bringing the junior off of the bench for the previous two games. Alex Thompson had been starting in Hansen's place.
Hansen finished with five points and two rebounds in 27 minutes. Thompson came off the bench to contribute four points and two rebounds in nine minutes.
Crowded House: Carver-Hawkeye Arena rocked more than it had in recent memory. Despite their being approximately 5,000 Illinois fans in attendance, the Hawkeye contingent deserved credit for roaring for their team. It was apparent that the players fed off the rush. The student section really performed well.
The lone unfortunate incident that was audible came from a man in the crowd just prior to the national anthem being sung. He embarrassed himself by screaming "Iowa (f-ing) sucks."
Hawkeye Play of the Day: Iowa guard Adam Haluska grabbed the rebound of a missed shot out of the air and slammed it home.
Getting Defensive: Iowa switched up its defense nicely to keep the Illini off balance in the first 15 minutes of the game. The Hawkeyes opened in a man-to-man alignment and mixed in a 3-2 zone. The home team also extended a 3/4 court halfcourt trap on a couple of occasions and forced a shot clock violation.
Illinois got off in the final five minutes before before the intermission. The visitors used a 16-8 run during that time.
Statistically Speaking: Iowa committed 12 first half turnovers…The Hawkeyes knocked down 7 of 8 free throw attempts (87.5 percent) before the break and finished 21-26 from the line…The Hawkeyes held a 36-21 advantage on the boards...Iowa committed 21 turnovers to 10 by the Illini, which enjoyed a 23-7 advantage on points off of turnovers....Mike Henderson paced Iowa with six turnovers, while Jeff Horner and Greg Brunner each added five.
Tip-Ins: Former Iowa players Luke Recker, Ryan Bowen and Kent McCausland attended Saturday's game…Hawkeye football recruits Dan Doering, Dace Richardson and Rafael Eubanks watched the game courtside…Nate Kaeding, Marv Cook and Tyler Luebke also were in the house…Linn-Mar junior guard Jason Bohanon took in the game from behind the Iowa bench…Iowa assistant Craig Neal removed the good cop tag he wore most of this season on Saturday. He screamed at players throughout Saturday's game.
Opening Statement: It was a really good game. Both teams really competed hard and gave great effort. I'm really proud of our guys' effort. It really just came down to not taking care of the basketball.
We've got some inexperience out there and we just had way too many turnovers. That was really the difference.
We did a great job on the backboard. We shot a high percentage. We battled defensively. We mixed defenses to try to keep them off balance.
But one team turned it over 11 more times and the other team got 11 more shots on goal shooting the same percentage as the other team. That was the difference in the game. You can't give a team like this 11 more possessions.
How big was that inbounds play at the end of the game?
It was real big. Again, it was just another careless turnover. We've got to just keep fighting through it. We're having a hard time in that last five minutes (of games) of making plays.
That's the hardest thing to do for guys like Mike and Carlton and Alex and these new guys to be in there at that time. It's a tall order. And you've just got to keep fighting through this and hope to break through one of these times.
How do you explain playing so, whatever you want to call it, Wednesday at Purdue and playing do well for most of the game today?
Um. Well. After watching the tape and things, and I really don't know where you're going. If it's effort, the effort on Wednesday was just as good on Wednesday as it was today.
This team has not been about effort. This team has been about execution. Coach Keady even made the comment that that's the best Purdue has played all year.
They had a week to be ready for us. They played extremely well. And we're not like an Illinois or Michigan State to where we're going to blow people out.
We led Purdue more than they led us. It was the last five, six minutes again. It was just being able to close games out and understanding time and score and possessions and the bottom line, making plays.
Nick Smith (hits) a huge three. That's making a play. I don't think that was bad defense. (It's) a 7-2 guy falling into the bench in the corner. He just makes plays.
Good teams, good players, they find a way to make plays. And we've got to learn those things.
Is Illinois the No. 1 team?
North Carolina, when they're clicking and healthy, they're equally as strong and equally as potent. But this is a fun team to watch because they can beat you in a lot of different ways.
We threw zones at them. We threw man at them. We threw traps at them. We shot well on our home floor. We got to the free throw line. We made free throws. We outrebound them by 15. (laughs) And you still lose by 10.
They find ways of winning. They don't feel the pressure.
How about all of the Illinois fans here today? Is that embarrassing for the Iowa program?
(Laughs) I've got enough things to try to control. I can't control who buys tickets and how the tickets get sold. That's probably out of my hands. I'm trying to figure out who can make plays in the last four minutes.
How did you feel your posts played today?
They're really trying. Erek was better. Doug. They got a little anxious today at moments, but the effort was really good.
Our guards are getting back to posting well. From our standpoint, there was a pretty good flow to what we were doing.
You can't give the No. 1 team in the country 11 more times to score than you. That's too much for our team to overcome.
What did go on in the last five minutes for your guys? Did Brunner need more touches?
Nah. I don't know if it's about touches for him. He got touches. It's making basketball plays. Players have to make basketball plays when it's crunch time and things are tight.
We're just not making enough plays in those minutes. We had a lot of turnovers in the first four minutes of the game. We had a lot of turnovers in the last four minutes of the game. And you just can't do that.
Were they intimidated down the stretch?
I don't know if it's intimidating. I don't think they're afraid of anybody. It's just knowing how to make plays.
Good players become great players when they know how to make plays at crunch time and you can elevate and make teammates better. We've got some upperclassmen that are trying and learning that. And we've got some young players that have never been in that environment.
It's a little bit different when you've got Williams and Head and Brown. They're war tested. They've learned how to make plays and trust one another.
With the way that our team shapes up now, we're trying to figure out who is that go to guy and if that go to guy is stopped can we give it to somebody else?
What are your thoughts on the game?
We played the No. 1 team to a great game again. We're down two with three mintutes left. They're just a great team and they pulled it out.
Why were you guys able to play so well today and not as well against Purdue?
I wish I knew. I wish it was that easy to know.
When it came down to the end, did you guys feel confident?
I thought we were fine. They just made a big run and made shots down the stretch.
Smith's shot from the corner, did that surprise you guys?
No. That's what he's known for is pop and shoot. And that's what he did. He made a big play.
You've hung with the No. 1 team down to the end twice and they've pulled it out. Does that illustrate maybe where they are and where you guys are?
They're just a great team. That's why they've been winning all these games. Teams play them well until there's six minutes left and they take over.
How frustrating is that?
It's been like that for a while now. It's really frustrating. We're always there. It shows that we're a great basketball team. We've just got to make sure we can pull out the wins. We're struggling with that right now.
It seems like a must-win situation from here on out.
Yeah. Very much so. We've dug ourselves in a hole now. We've got to get four in a row.
Do you guys have confidence going into these last four games?
You have to, especially when you play the No. 1 team like that. We did a great job for about 35 minutes.
Is there a sense of urgency because of the goals and because you're hitting the stretch run now?
We've got to win. We weren't thinking of just coming out today and playing tough. We were trying to get a win.
We've got to get these last four. We've got to continue to show up like we played today. We can't be two different teams - one at Purdue and the one that came to play today.
Who is responsible for why this team can't close?
Maturity of this team. Maybe sometimes we get down into the last four minutes, and we're just not finishing it out. I don't know if it's just not making it or not playing with confidence.
If I had an answer for it, I'd tell you. In Maui, we were really playing those last four minutes well. I don't know what to do.
What can you guys do to improve your chances of making plays down the stretch?
We'll be there. This is a learning process.
In the last four minutes of the game, who is the go to guy on this team?
It could be anybody on this team. I have confidence in anybody. Jeff and Bru being the captains, there the guys we want to get the ball to.
Why did you guys play so much better today than you guys did at Purdue?
We've got to figure something out because we can't play the No. 1 team every night. We've got to come out every game and play the same way. It's going to start on Wednesday against Minnesota.
We know what we have to do now, and that's win our last four games.
Are you confident that if you win your last four games that it will be enough?
You never know. But that's the only thing we can do now and go into the Big Ten Tournament and just relax and play our game, too.
Does playing like this against the No. 1 team give you confidence that you can close with four wins?
It kind of does and it kind of doesn't. If we could have made a play down the stretch there when we were down two at a couple of points in the game, it would have turned the momentum around.
I think when it was 60-58, they got an offensive rebound and they scored on it. That was tough to handle.
But we take some good things out of this and just figure out that we have to play hard every single game.
What did you make of what Coach Alford said after the Purdue game about leadership? I don't know if he was necessarily trying to pick on you, although maybe that's how it came out.
The coach is challenging people. We've got to come out and respond. We did that for the most part of the game. We just fell a little short tonight.
The biggest thing that coach wants is that night in and night out we give the effort. if we keep doing that throughout the rest of the games and just take one game at a time, we can do it.
What did you think of the crowd, 3,500 or so Illinois fans?
Our crowd was great. We need them to keep coming back. Hopefully our effort today will keep them coming back.
If we can get these two road games somehow and come back to Carver and have our fans pumped up, that would be awesome.
Having a lot of Illinois fans here, that gave us a little chip on our shoulder. I don't know why there are 3,500 Illinois fans here. I guess that's way our ticket people wanted it.
Are your backs against the wall?
Our backs are against the wall. Bru, Jack and I have had our backs against the wall the last three years.
We're going to overcome it sometime. We're older now and I think people are starting to feel sorry for us.
We don't want people to feel sorry for us. We just want to go out and get the job done. Losing is not taking care of business.