Men’s basketball downed at Illinois


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The Iowa men’s basketball team had a 13-3 run in the first half, but it couldn’t overcome Illinois’ numerous runs of its own on Feb. 26 in Champaign, Ill., and eventually lost, 81-68.

The Illini (18-11, 8-8) put the Hawkeyes (10-18, 3-13) down from the beginning, with a 10-0 start. Heading to the first time-out, it seemed as though Iowa would never find an offensive rhythm, with abundant turnovers and shots that wouldn’t fall. But over a three-minute, 10-second sequence midway through the first, Iowa came back.

A Devyn Marble lay-up ignited the run, which was capped by a Jarryd Cole free throw. The reason for the run wasn’t actually scoring though, players said, it was the Illini’s lack of it.

“We were stopping them from scoring,” freshman Melsahn Basabe said in a postgame radio interview. “We were getting stops, and that also boosts your offense.”

That was easily the biggest positive for Iowa in a game filled with negatives. Take, for instance, all the runs Illinois had.

In addition to the 10-0 run at the beginning of the game, the Illini followed Iowa’s 13-3 effort with a 14-2 stint of their own.

While Iowa was down by just 5 at halftime, that didn’t last long, either — Illinois sprang into action and was up double digits by the 16:42 mark.

It was a sluggish performance defensively, and the Hawkeyes were cold from the field in spots in which the team needed baskets.

“I thought we lost the game at the start of the second half,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said in a postgame radio interview. “We were not good on either end of the floor in that stretch of time.”

The is just another example of all the problems Iowa has had this season, he said, particularly the team’s road woes.

Iowa has only won one conference road game this year, a 1-point win over last-place Indiana.

“We have to understand how to go on the road and win,” McCaffery said as he began listing all the problems that seem to come out when his squad isn’t playing in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “We have to get out to a better start, we have to share the ball.”

But while Iowa wasn’t distributing the ball to the right places — the team had 14 turnovers — some credit must go to the home team. Particularly notable was the Illini’s defense on Iowa’s star freshman Basabe.

Almost every time the first-year player touched the ball in the post, it seemed he had two defenders. A quick double team forced it out of his hands. And while he still finished with 17 points — Iowa’s leading scorer for the evening — he also had five turnovers.

The other statistic that was indicative of Iowa’s performance was its field-goal percentage as a team.

The Hawkeyes were nearly even or better than Illinois in almost every other category, shooting better from the free throw line and being out-rebounded by just four. But Iowa shot just 40.7 percent from the field on 59 attempts, while Illinois shot an astounding 55.4 percent on 56 attempts.

Because this was seemingly the only discrepancy in the final stats, it was clear to McCaffery what the problem was: finishing plays. In a tough environment on the road, there’s no room for error.

“[I’m] proud of the guys in terms of how they fought to the very end,” he said. “But execution … not what it needed to be.”

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