116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — The Iowa men’s basketball team is good at shaving big deficits, it just needs a slightly larger blade.
And a lot more rebounding.
After almost coming all the way back from a 19-point second-half hole at Purdue Friday night, the Hawkeyes cut a 15-point second-half gap to three late in Monday’s Carver-Hawkeye Arena game against Illinois before falling, 87-83.
Thus, Iowa will own an 0-2 Big Ten record for the next four weeks. The 7-2 Hawkeyes resume conference play Jan. 3.
The Illini (7-2, 2-0) used a supersized 52-23 advantage in rebounds to help win this one, amassing 24 second-chance points.
“This rebounding line is completely unacceptable,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “I’ve been coaching for 40 years. This is absolutely unacceptable. We just have to be better.”
“Rebounds are really just hustle and effort,” said Iowa forward Keegan Murray, who had a season-low two.
“Unless there’s something that our minds need to change in that area, I feel like our guys are up to the challenge for that.”
Iowa was out-rebounded 42-30 at Purdue Friday in their 77-70 loss to the now-No. 1 Boilermakers.
Monday’s was one of the strangest box scores you’ll see in a Hawkeyes game. Iowa was out-rebounded by 29, which hasn’t happened since … ever?
On the other hand, the Hawkeyes had 10 more field goal tries than its foe and committed a meager four turnovers while forcing the Illini into 18. The Hawkeyes have averaged just 5.7 turnovers in their last three games, and against what easily are their three strongest opponents to date in Virginia, Purdue and Illinois.
“The press was good, activity was really good at times,” McCaffery said, “but the bottom line is we have to get better with our execution and limiting the opponent to fewer shots.”
Illini Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year Kofi Cockburn played like he was worthy of the honor in the second half, which began with his team ahead by just 39-36. He had 14 of his 17 points and 13 of his 18 rebounds after halftime.
Teammates Alfonso Plummer and Jacob Grandison had 21 points each, combining to go 8-of-17 from 3-point distance.
Cockburn scored 10 points in the first seven minutes of the second half, and that was before Illinois peeled off a 10-0 run for a 62-47 lead with 8:57 remaining. Fifth-year senior guard Trent Frazier had the first seven points of that run, and had 18 in the game, giving him 130 points in nine games against Iowa.
Murray, who entered the game as the nation’s leading scorer with 24.6 points per game, scored just seven points in the first 36 minutes, but finished with 19.
“Just getting my feet under me, with an ankle injury, obviously is tough,” Murray said. “Just trying to get my feel for the game back. In the second half I kind of got that back.”
His eight unanswered points in a 59-second stretch pulled Iowa to within 72-69.
Illinois didn’t buckle. Iowa was down 84-81 with 6.6 seconds left, but the Illini made three free throws after that to seal the win, their fourth-straight against the Hawkeyes.
Iowa sophomore guard Tony Perkins scored 16 points, 12 in a 21-2 Iowa first-half run. But the Illini finished the half with an 18-5 spree for a 39-36 halftime edge.
The Hawkeyes’ next game is Thursday night at No. 17 Iowa State (8-0). They’ll play three more times after that before getting back to Big Ten play.
“I’m ecstatic,” Illinois Coach Brad Underwood said.
“This is an Iowa team that … they’re going to be in there, they’re going to be contending for a league title.”