IOWA CITY, Ia. - The Iowa basketball team couldn't overcome a raucous crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena Wednesday night in falling 57-49 to rival Illinois. If that doesn't sound right, it shouldn't. The idea is to have a home-court advantage at home, but that's where things are these days in Iowa City.
The Illini student section, dubbed the Orange Krush, took over almost the entire section under the north basket and clearly made the most noise of the night. After allowing Iowa students in for free a week ago, the university went back to charging them and even dollar hot dog night couldn't get them back.
"Did they pay?" Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter said when asked about the Illinois students. "Ok. Good. I didn't really have any thoughts. I thought they obviously travel well and that those seats are empty. They filled them.
"It was a good environment over there; a really good environment."
The Hawkeyes fell to 8-15 on the season and 2-8 in the Big Ten. They've now dropped three in a row in league play, including three in a row.
"In these games where we have a chance, we probably try to make 10 plays that the best players can't make," Lickliter said. "When I say the best players, the NBA guys. We try to make plays that just aren't there. They're so low percentage. If you do that against a team like this, you diminish your chances of winning because you just don't have much margin for error."
Illinois (15-8, 7-3) took the lead for good with six minutes remaining in the first half. They visitors led 47-38 with 6:46 to play in the game.
Iowa fought back with a 11-5 run to cut the Illini lead to 52-49 with 1:37 on the clock. The Hawkeyes were afforded two opportunities to cut into that deficit, but Cully Payne twice missed on driving lay-ups.
The home team was forced to foul Mike Tisdale, who sank both ends of a one-and-one. Illinois led 54-49 with :34.2 to play in the game. Iowa would miss their final attempts, the Illini hit three more free throws and a good part of the crowd went home happy. The Orange Krush exploded into a chant of "This is Our House."
"I thought it was pretty impressive," Gatens said of the Illinois student section. "It was kind of cool that they made the trip over from Champaign. I don't think it bothered us too much. It was just more fans. It was impressive that they made the trip over,"
The Hawkeyes return to action this Sunday, when they travel to Columbus to take on Ohio State at 11 a.m.
"We just can't get over the hump," Gatens said of close losses. "We have to keep fighting and keep our heads up. We can't stay down and get mad about these close losses. We need to learn from them. We need to study the next opponent and get ready. It's a good opponent."