Hawkeyes lose third-straight game


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“Crushing” hardly sums up Iowa’s loss to Illinois Wednesday night.

The Hawkeyes had a chance to put themselves in position to potentially tie the game in the final minute, trailing 52-49. But a missed lay-up by freshman Cully Payne led to a Fighting Illini rebound, and to the delight of the “Orange Krush” — the Illinois student section — the Illini left Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a 57-49 win.

Iowa dropped its third-straight game and fell to 8-15 overall and 2-8 in Big Ten play.

During a time-out in the final minute of regulation, Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter called a play where either Payne would go to the basket if an opening occurred or dish the ball out to sophomore Matt Gatens for a shot.

Payne, who played despite dealing with pneumonia, got his opening but couldn’t score with Illinois providing enough coverage to contest his shot.

“As soon as I got the corner turned, it’s either I see it or I don’t, and I kind of saw the lay-up at first before I saw anyone else,” Payne said. “In the first half, I had a ton of kick-outs, so I thought they were going to really try to play those, so I thought a lay-up was there.”

Illinois got off to a quick 5-0 start before the Hawkeyes initiated a back-and-forth contest in the first half, which at one point was tied at 19-19. But after that, the Illini took control.

Although the Hawkeyes struggled shooting all evening, finishing 16-of-54, Lickliter was content with the way his club played defensively in the defeat — the Illini shot 21-of-47.

“I think they’ve been shooting 50-something percent, and so we obviously guarded them a little better than what they’ve been seeing,” he said. “Defensively, especially in the second half, we stepped it up.”

Illinois had three scorers in double figures. Junior Demetri McCamey led the way for the Illini with 15 points, Mike Tisdale had 14, and D.J. Richardson finished with 11.

Iowa had two players — sophomore Matt Gatens and junior Jarryd Cole — who reached the double-digit plateau. Gatens led the Hawkeyes’ offensively with 12 points, and Cole had 10.

Freshman Brennan Cougil also contributed, especially early in the game. The forward came off the bench and provided the Hawkeyes with eight points and seven rebounds.

“I thought he played with a little more assertiveness,” Lickliter said. “I thought he was pretty active.”

Considering the performance Iowa had last weekend at Michigan — the team never seemed in the contest — the Hawkeyes felt the effort on Wednesday against Illinois was there, but they didn’t do enough when it mattered most.

“This is just too bad to look up at the scoreboard at the end of the game, and we don’t get a win for all the effort and all the good things you put into it,” Gatens said. “But there are a lot of things we can learn from and a lot of things we can be proud of.”

Iowa will go on the road now for the third weekend in a row when it visits No. 13 Ohio State on Feb. 7. Tip-off is scheduled for 11 a.m. The Hawkeyes and Buckeyes met eight days ago in Carver-Hawkeye Arena; the Buckeyes came from behind to win, 65-57.

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