Iowa men’s basketball team earns No. 5 seed in Big Ten Tournament after falling short to Illinois in regular season finale

Missed free throws proved to be Iowa’s demise in the 74-72 loss to Illinois.


© Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 6, 2022; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes guard Tony Perkins (11) drives the ball as Illinois Fighting Illini guard Andre Curbelo (5) defends during the second half at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

The No. 24 Iowa men’s basketball team missed its chance of clinching a double-bye in this week’s Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament by dropping its regular season finale at No. 20 Illinois, 74-72.

The Hawkeyes were in control of their own destiny and just needed a win to secure the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament. However, poor execution down the stretch cost Iowa. The Hawkeyes shot below 50 percent from the free throw line in the loss. 

Iowa led by as many as 15 points with three minutes to go in the first half behind a 13-0 run. The Fighting Illini cut the deficit to six before the half and managed to wrestle the momentum back heading into the second half. 

After a mostly back and forth second half, Iowa found itself in a position to win after Keegan Murray was fouled from 3-point range. With the Hawkeyes down two, Murray managed to sink just one of his three free throws, and Illinois hung on to win the game and clinch a share of the Big Ten regular season title.

Keegan Murray led the way for Iowa once again with a 22 point, 11 rebound double-double performance. Tony Perkins contributed 17 points, while Kris Murray added 13 points. A 3-pointer from Kris Murray at the buzzer, which would have won Iowa the game, was just off the mark.

After being out-rebounded by the worst margin in Big Ten history, Iowa was much more competitive on the glass in the rematch. Illinois out-rebounded Iowa by just three at the State Farm Center, with Kofi Cockburn doing the majority of the damage against Iowa with seven offensive rebounds. 

Big Picture

Iowa falls to 22-9 on the year and finishes 12-8 in conference play during the regular season. The Hawkeyes finished tied for fourth place in conference play, but are the fifth seed in the Big Ten Tournament. 

Lack of Execution

The Big Ten’s best free throw shooting team had a woeful night at the line by shooting under 50 percent from the free throw line. The Fighting Illini supporters did their best to keep Iowa shooting just 10-22 from the charity stripe. Keegan Murray was 2-of-7 from the line, while Kris Murray went 2-of-5.

In clutch situations, Iowa struggled in particular by missing six free throws in the last two-and-a-half minutes of the game. 

Second-Half Slump

Iowa started out the night hot, and the Hawkeyes looked set for a comfortable win on the road to close the regular season. The Hawkeyes shot 51.5 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent from three in the first half while holding Illinois to 38.9 percent from the floor. 

However, the shooting number would flip in the second half, and it was Iowa shooting much colder while Illinois worked up to 46 percent from the floor. 

What’s Next

Iowa opens the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse against the winner of Wednesday’s contest between Nebraska and Northwestern. That game begins 25 minutes after the Thursday’s first game, which begins at 11:30 a.m. ET, and can be viewed on BTN.

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