The Iowa Hawkeyes season will continue for another day, as they beat Illinois in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament 64-61.
In what started out as a good first half for the Illini, it certainly didn’t carry over to the second half. Illinois ended the first half with a 31-27 lead while shooting 50% from the field and it was looking like they were going to just pull away in the second half. Meyers Leonard had already hit double digit points, and DJ Richardson added 9 in the first half. Things were looking good.
And then the second half started. And if you’ve watched the Illini all year, you knew something was going to go awry soon. DJ Richardson all of a sudden couldn’t hit a shot, Brandon Paul couldn’t either, but he couldn’t hit the entire game. The team shot just 38% from the field in the second half, while Iowa shot an equal dismal 37%. Iowa outscored Illinois 37-30 in the second half, and the difference for the game was free throws. Iowa shot 12-19 on the game from the charity stripe, while Illinois shot 0-0. That isn’t a typo folks, those are two zeros. Illinois didn’t shoot a free throw the entire game.
Illinois for the game was lead in scoring by Meyers Leonard with 18, while Joseph Bertrand and DJ Richardson added 11 each. Brandon Paul was almost non-existent on the offensive side scoring just 4 points on 2 of 11 shooting. Junior forward Tyler Griffey added 9 points, while he also got the start at power forward for the Illini.
Iowa was lead, as usual, by senior star Matt Gatens with 20 points. Gatens shot 7 of 12 from the field, 2 of 5 from three. Freshman forward Aaron White had a solid game with 13 points and 9 rebounds.
Next up for Illinois is probably nothing. Unless they get an NIT invite, or a CBI invite, Illinois’ season is over. Coach Bruce Weber more than likely coached his last game today for the Illini. A decision on his job could come tomorrow or on Monday after conclusion of the conference tournaments. It’s really unknown and speculative at this point if he’d be retained to coach in the postseason should the Illini earn a bid to one of the two smaller postseason tournaments.
Iowa will play the #1 seed Michigan St. tomorrow at noon in Indianapolis.