Iowa basketball runs Illinois out of Carver, wins fifth game in a row

Iowa shot the lights out of the 3-point ball and used superb first-half defense to shut down Illinois on Sunday in Carver.

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Iowa basketball runs Illinois out of Carver, wins fifth game in a row

Iowa forward Tyler Cook dunks during the Iowa/Illinois men's basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, January 20, 2019.

Iowa forward Tyler Cook dunks during the Iowa/Illinois men's basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, January 20, 2019.

Lily Smith

Iowa forward Tyler Cook dunks during the Iowa/Illinois men's basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, January 20, 2019.

Lily Smith

Lily Smith

Iowa forward Tyler Cook dunks during the Iowa/Illinois men's basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, January 20, 2019.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

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Thanks to a 3-point explosion and stellar defense, No. 23 Iowa took down Illinois, 95-71, on Sunday in Carver.

The Hawkeyes drained 15 of their 21 3-point attempts, running the Illini out of the gym early in the second half and never looking back.

“That’s being taken out to the woodshed and whooped today,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said in his opening statement. “… It’s a track meet at [Carver] when you play them if you allow them to get into it.”

Underwood’s metaphor of Sunday’s game proved accurate, as Iowa never took its foot off the gas pedal. Offensively, Joe Wieskamp scored a team-high 24 points, including a perfect 6-for-6 from 3-point range. Meanwhile, Isaiah Moss scored 21 and Luka Garza added 20 to pace the Black and Gold offense for most of the game.

“I’m running back and [shots] just keep going in, and I’m like, ‘Wow.’” Garza said. “I don’t even remember Isaiah missing, and I know Joe didn’t miss. It was crazy. I’m looking for rebounds, but I might as well just run back on defense.”

Iowa shot a sizzling 68 percent for the contest (an arena record), but the same couldn’t be said for Illinois, which shot itself into a first-half hole. Iowa led by 15 at half thanks to its ability to hold Illinois to just 28.6 percent from the field in the first.

“It was spectacular,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said about his team’s first-half defense. “We were really locked in, we were grinding hard, fighting over – We really put a lot of attention to stopping them in transition. They’re at their best in transition.”

Illinois scored 15 points in transition, but struggled to match Iowa’s 3-point barrage. The Illini made 11 triples of their own, but at a 34.4 percent clip.

As the game went on in the second half, the pace picked up, and so did Illinois’ offense at times. Overall, the Hawkeye defense held the Illini to just 39.1 percent shooting from the floor.

McCaffery has gone back and forth between a man-to-man and zone defense this season, but on Sunday, the potency lied in the man-to-man defense.

“[Sunday] was great,” McCaffery said. “[Illinois] is hard to guard. They’re quick off the dribble, they run a spread offense where there’s a lot of cuts and they invert, so there’s different people in different spots, and then they mix in some weave action and some set plays. So, you’ve got to be locked in together.”

Now, the Hawkeyes have their toughest home test to date next on the radar. No. 6 Michigan State comes to Iowa City on Thursday for a 6 p.m. showdown, and the Hawkeyes – winners of their last five games – have all the confidence in the world.

“We feel like we’re a top team in the Big Ten,” Wieskamp said. “Obviously, we’ve got to prove that, we’ve got to beat them. It starts with Michigan State on Thursday.”

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