The Iowa basketball team entered the B1G Men’s Conference Tournament in a four-game slide but snapped that with a dominating win over Illinois 83-62.
Let’s be honest, most Iowa basketball fans were probably entering this game with an extreme amount of cautiousness, which is totally fair given the state of the Iowa basketball program the last few weeks.
As we noted heading into this game, the Hawks had zero momentum heading into this game in addition to their defensive effort drastically falling off the cliff the last few weeks. Moreover, they have won just three games in the Big Ten Tournament combined under Fran McCaffery.
However, if even for just one night, the Iowa basketball program quieted the concerned fans and the elevated amount of chirping that has piped up as of recent as they kicked Illinois’ butt on both ends of the floor.
Starting out in a man defense, the Hawks were surprisingly able to limit an athletic perimeter featuring five-star guard Ayo Dosunmu. Although Illinois managed to go on a few runs here and there, Iowa’s man defense, which intermingled with its zone throughout the contest caused quite a few headaches against Illinois’ young and inexperienced team and resulted in the second lowest scoring output for a Big Ten opponent against the Hawks this season.
More impressive though was the Hawk’s offense on the evening. Unlike most of the season where the team is led by one or two players, the Iowa basketball team had a full team performance on the evening with five players scoring 7 or more points and none scoring more than senior Nicholas Baer’s 17 points (6-10, 5-6 3 pt). It was sparked, in large part, by continued ball movement until the open shooter was found. Even redshirt freshman point guard Connor McCaffery got involved hitting a three-pointer on the game.
McCaffery also had a career-high 8 assists on the game and Tyler Cook added a season-high 6 assists as the Hawks did a fantastic job of placing inside-out basketball driving to the lane or kicking it in the paint to the big men. When the defense would collapse, the Hawks would make a pass out to one its open shooters.
Overall, it was a fantastic team performance and a much-needed easy win before the Iowa basketball team takes on Michigan this evening.
If there are any concerns or questions, it would have to be the fact that the Hawks did continue a problem which has hurt their ballhandlers throughout the season: over-dribbling (Jordan Bohannon) and picking up their dribble too early (McCaffery). Moreover, Illinois’ defense is the second worst in the Big Ten next to Iowa’s and it shows. They looked lackadaisical on defense, not filling in passing lanes and not closing out on Iowa’s shooters which is a big reason why the Hawks hit over 50% of their threes on the night.
Regardless, I’m just happy to see a Hawkeye win.
Let’s get it done tonight against Michigan to head to the semifinals.