Illinois again struggled for
large portions of the game and could not seem to get consistent
defensive stops at key points of the game. Illinois' best post
player, James Augustine, played just 14 minutes because of foul
trouble. Iowa had several fast-break points that were uncontested
and led coach Bruce Weber to destroy a white board on the sidelines.
That said, the offense did
respond in a great way and, led by Roger Powell's 20 points and Nick
Smith's 18, Illinois avoided losing to Iowa in Champaign for just
the second time in 17 years. Iowa's lone victory in Champaign during
that span came during the 1999 season, when Illinois was just 3-13
in conference play.
Illinois' sophomore guards
Deron Williams and Dee Brown were also huge in this game. Williams
scored 17 points and was really the go-to guy down the stretch. He
played 38 minutes despite battling fatigue related to his recent
injury and did his best to slow down Iowa's Pierre Pierce. Brown
also logged 38 minutes and finished with a game-high eight assists
to go along with 14 points and a team-high five rebounds.
Smith, who recently had a
streak of 20 straight free throws broken, made all 10 of his
free-throw attempts and finds himself in the top five of the
conference leaders for free-throw percentage.
Iowa was led in scoring by
Pierce's 26 points and 20 points from senior Brody Boyd.
[to top of second column in this
Saturday was a game of streaks.
Illinois looked to be in control with a 26-17 lead halfway through
the first half. But Iowa then went on a 14-0 run to claim a 31-26
lead, which they parlayed into a five-point halftime lead at 43-38.
The Illini started hot in the second half, scoring the first 10
points of the half and again putting themselves in good position.
But, Iowa refused to play dead, and the game was back and forth the
rest of the way. Finally, in the last two minutes, Illinois was able
to hit key shots and knock down free throws to seal the victory.
Illinois went 9-10 from the line in the last minute of the game to
keep the Hawkeyes at bay.
Illinois returns to action
Wednesday night in Champaign against Penn State. Game time is set
for 8 p.m., and the game can be seen on WCIA-TV.
Saturday's game was a must win for the Illini -- and they won. But
make no mistake, this victory does not cover up serious problems
with the team. Among them, Illinois is not consistent on defense or
from the free-throw line, and they still look out of sync on
offense. With 12 games to go in the regular season, the team must
come together and start to play as one unit. Wednesday could be the