Rapid Recap: Iowa men’s basketball team falls to Illinois in Big Ten Tournament semifinals

The Hawkeyes will find out who they play in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa center Luka Garza looks to make a pass during the first half of the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament semifinals against Illinois on Saturday, March 13, 2021 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Hawkeyes are behind the Fighting Illini, 37-45 at halftime. (Hannah Kinson/The Daily Iowan)

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

INDIANAPOLIS — The Iowa men’s basketball team made its first trip to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals in 15 years this weekend. Snapping the program’s 15-year drought of appearing in the conference championship game didn’t go as well.

No. 2-seed Illinois defeated No. 3-seed Iowa 82-71 in the tournament’s semifinals and will play No. 5-seed Ohio State on Sunday in the conference championship game.

The Fighting Illini (22-6 overall, 18-4 Big Ten) are 2-0 against the Hawkeyes (21-8, 15-7) this season after previously winning the only regular-season matchup between the two teams.

Illinois led for the final 36 minutes of the game. The last time Iowa was on top came at the 14:18 mark of the first half. From there, the Illini held a comfortable lead that at one point was as large as 14 points.

With 3:40 remaining in the game, Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon hit a 3-pointer to cut Illinois’ lead down to five points. The Illini missed their next shot and Hawkeye forward Keegan Murray secured the rebound. But the next trip down the floor, Bohannon turned the ball over, which led to Illinois’ guard Ayo Dosunmu dunking the ball in transition and Illinois going up seven points.

With 2:45 left, Bohannon, who finished with 20 points (5-of-13 3-pointers) and six assists, swished two free throws to cut the lead down to five again. But Illinois immediately responded with a basket of its own.

And the game was never as close again.

Iowa closed out the game missing nine of its last 10 field goals. The Hawkeyes did not score for the game’s final two minutes and 45 seconds, sending Illinois to the final game of the weekend.

Illinois and Ohio State will tip off at 2:30 p.m. CT Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in the conference championship game.

Iowa, Illinois stars shine on tournament stage

Saturday’s second Big Ten semifinals matchup featured three first team All-Big Ten selections.

And all three excelled.

Iowa center Luka Garza, the back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Year winner, scored 21 points on 8-of-21 shooting against Illinois. The senior also tallied 12 rebounds, three steals, and a block.

For Illinois, Dosunmu scored 18 points (7-of-16 shooting) while also notching seven rebounds and nine assists. Garza and Dosunmu are widely considered to be the two best players in the country.

Illini center Kofi Cockburn scored 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting and secured eight rebounds with Garza on him most of the night.

Iowa’s cold shooting in second half

The Hawkeyes shot 48.4 percent from the field in the first half Saturday and 46.2 percent from 3-point range. In the second half, they cooled off and only shot 35.3 percent from the floor and 18.2 percent (2-of-11) from deep.

Over two games in the conference tournament, Iowa shot 10-of-44 from 3-point range.

Bohannon (five) and Joe Wieskamp (three) were the only Hawkeyes to convert on 3-point attempts against Illinois.

On to the NCAA Tournament

Up next for the Hawkeyes: the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa is a projected two-seed by ESPN bracketology guru Joe Lunardi. The team will likely face a 15-seed next Friday or Saturday. The NCAA will reveal the full bracket Sunday at 5 p.m. ET and that’s when the Hawkeyes will figure out their next opponent.

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