116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
(I wasn’t in Champaign for this game, so this report is from TV, radio and other sources.)
A meltdown at the free-throw line cost Iowa a sixth-straight men’s basketball win, and helped No. 20 llinois tie Wisconsin for the Big Ten regular-season championship Sunday night. That door swung open for the Illini Sunday afternoon when Nebraska shocked Wisconsin in Madison, 75-74.
The No. 24 Hawkeyes made just 6 of 16 foul shots in the second half in losing 74-72. They had a chance to win the game when Kris Murray had an open 3-point try from the right corner, but the shot rimmed out and was tipped out to the Illini’s Trent Frazier to seal the win.
“We had the shot halfway down to win it,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said after the game on the Hawkeye Radio Network. “A great extra pass there for a wide-open 3. That’s what you want to have in that situation.”
After five consecutive double-digit wins, Iowa’s regular-season finale was a defeat that sent it to 22-9 overall, 12-8 in the Big Ten,. It put it in the No. 5 seed in this week’s Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis, meaning it will have to win four games in four days to win that event.
Iowa will play either Nebraska or Northwestern Thursday at approximately 12:55 p.m. (CT), with the winner facing No. 4-seed Rutgers Friday afternoon.
The Hawkeyes led 63-57 with nine minutes left, but Illinois’ Coleman Hawkins hit a 3-pointer to cap an 8-0 run and give the Illini a 65-63 edge. Keegan Murray’s 3-pointer put Iowa back in front, 67-65, but another 8-0 run gave Illinois (22-8, 15-5) a lead it barely held onto.
Kris Murray missed all three free throws when he was fouled from behind the arc when Illinois led 73-67. He was 1-of-7 from the line. Keegan Murray, who had 22 points, also was fouled on a 3-point try, with 15.9 seconds leff and his team behind 73-71. He made just one of three.
“Normally we’re a really good free throw-shooting team,” McCaffery said. “We missed a ton coming down the stretch. We were doing what we needed to do to manage the clock and get to the free throw line.”
Da’Monte Williams made 1 of 2 foul shots with 10.6 seconds left to up Illinois’ lead to 74-72, then Kris Murray’s final shot rimmed off and Illinois had a court storm to celebrate its title.
The Hawkeyes’ 13-0 run turned a 19-19 game into a 32-19 Hawkeyes lead. Subs Kris Murray and Payton Sandfort had five points apiece in the run. Sandfort didn’t play in Iowa’s 82-71 win at Michigan last Thursday, but was ready when he got the call, hitting a 3-pointer and a 2-point jumper on successive possessions.
Another sub, Joe Toussaint, entered to play point guard after Jordan Bohannon was assessed his second foul 4:09 into the game. Toussaint had five points, three assists and two steals in the first half.
The Hawkeyes began the game making 5 of their first 14 shots, but then made 12 of their next 14. They scored on 12 straight possessions at one point.
The lead grew to 43-28 with 3:12 left on a Tony Perkins 3-pointer that gave him 10 points in the half. The Illini scored the final nine points of the half, however, to pull within 43-37.
The Illini finished a 19-3 over both halves to take a 47-46 lead with 15:46 left, but Kris and Keegan Murray combined for eight straight points to give Iowa a 54-47 advantage.
Perkins had 17 points, a career-high 12 rebounds, and a career-high tying five assists.
“We had a lot of good things happen,” McCaffery said. “Tony Perkins, look at his line, 17, 12 and five. I mean, he was phenomenal.”
But Perkins, 40-of-45 (88.9 percent) from the foul line entering the game, was 3-of-7 Sunday.
“They didn’t go where I wanted them to go,” Perkins said.
“We’re just going to practice and get it down so we don’t have to worry about missing in the Big Ten tournament and NCAA tournament.”
Illinois center Kofi Cockburn had 21 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots. Keegan Murray was 7-of-22 from the field. He had 11 rebounds and four blocks. Kris Murray scored 13 points.
Starting forward Patrick McCaffery stayed behind in Iowa City with a hip issue and a non-COVID illness. Bohannon played just 14 minutes and didn’t score after eight straight games of at least 10 points.
“We’ve got a lot of hoop left in this group,” Fran McCaffery said. “Love this team. Really proud of these guys. Everything is positive all the way across the board.”