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Hawkeyes down Illinois in Big Ten Tournament, look to Michigan

Iowa+forward+Luka+Garza+%2855%29+looks+for+an+open+shot+against+a+Northwester+defender+during+the+Senior+Day+men%27s+basketball+game+between+Iowa+and+Northwestern+at+Carver-Hawkeye+Arena+on+Sunday%2C+Feb.+25%2C+2018.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Wildcats+77-70.+%28Ben+Allan+Smith%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
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Hawkeyes down Illinois in Big Ten Tournament, look to Michigan

Iowa forward Luka Garza (55) looks for an open shot against a Northwester defender during the Senior Day men's basketball game between Iowa and Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats 77-70. (Ben Allan Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa forward Luka Garza (55) looks for an open shot against a Northwester defender during the Senior Day men's basketball game between Iowa and Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats 77-70. (Ben Allan Smith/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photo by Ben Al

Iowa forward Luka Garza (55) looks for an open shot against a Northwester defender during the Senior Day men's basketball game between Iowa and Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats 77-70. (Ben Allan Smith/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photo by Ben Al

The Daily Iowan; Photo by Ben Al

Iowa forward Luka Garza (55) looks for an open shot against a Northwester defender during the Senior Day men's basketball game between Iowa and Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats 77-70. (Ben Allan Smith/The Daily Iowan)

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Iowa entered the Big Ten Tournament needing to win five games in five days to keep its season and an NCAA Tournament hope alive. Or at least flickering.

On Wednesday, the Hawkeyes made it four. Iowa beat Illinois, 96-87, in New York City for its first postseason win to extends its season.

The Hawkeyes put some pressure on the Illini early, going on a 13-0 run to go up 17-5. But Illinois quickly extinguished that double-digit lead, getting it back within 3 and knocking it down to 2 early in the second half.

“When you’re playing Illinois, they’re going to keep coming,” head coach Fran McCaffery said. “They fight you. It seemed like every time we got what seemingly was a comfortable lead, it was not a comfortable lead.”

Despite committing 10 turnovers in the first half, 18 overall, including 7 in the first 11 minutes, Iowa took a 4-point lead into the locker room at halftime.

Iowa’s offense was stellar and its defense was good enough to pull out a win, which is important if the Hawkeyes want to go on a run in Madison Square Garden.

Iowa shot 56 percent from the field in a high-quality performance, while it held Illinois to 48 percent.

RELATED: Five games in five days? That’s the goal for Iowa hoops

The Hawkeyes featured a balanced attack throughout. Point guard Jordan Bohannon led the way for Iowa, posting a 25-point, 6-assist performance, including five from 3-point range. It was the ninth game this season that Bohannon has hit at least five shots from deep.

Luka Garza and Tyler Cook also reached double figures, dropping 20 and 19, respectively.

After a rough first half handling the ball that included 4 of Iowa’s 7 turnovers in the first 11 minutes, Bohannon turned it on and started cooking.

“I struggled first half, turned the ball over, had a couple bad turnovers,” Bohannon said. “But gotta give a lot of credit to my guys, especially [Garza]. They really stepped up tonight and made big-time plays.”

Illinois forward Leron Black was in foul trouble for a big chunk of the contest, which helped Iowa. Black, the Illini’s leading scorer, was held to just 4 points and 3 rebounds in 17 minutes of action.

The foul trouble led to Iowa shooting 41 free throws, which it cashed in for 34 points.

With Black on the bench for minutes on end, Kipper Nichols stepped up in a big way, recording 31 points and hitting five shots from behind the arc.

The Hawkeyes held on, despite the tremendous performance, to preserve a date with Michigan today, 25 minutes after the Maryland-Wisconsin game, which starts at 11 a.m.

“They’re a great team. The one guy that nobody talks about is Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. I think that guy has had a good a year as anybody in our league,” McCaffery said. “They’re all good. Duncan Robinson, the Sixth Man of the Year, going to the bench as a senior tells you a lot about John Beilein and his program. You’ve got to play well to beat Michigan.”

The Wolverines have been a threat from 3-point land both times they played Iowa this year. Three-point defense has been an Achilles’ heel for the Hawkeyes all season, but they need that to change to move on.

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About the Writer
Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

Pete Ruden is the Sports Editor at the DI, where he has worked since the beginning of his college career. He has covered a variety of sports at the DI,...

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