Live! vs. No. 15 Iowa
No. 15 Iowa 81, Illinois 74 — FINAL
CHAMPAIGN — The Illini rallied from a 21-point first-half deficit to eventually take a five-point lead midway through the second half, but it wasn't enough to avoid a seventh straight loss.
Joseph Bertrand tied a season high with 20 points while Rayvonte Rice (13) and Tracy Abrams (11) also reached double figures for the Illini (13-9, 2-7 Big Ten).
Iowa was led by Gabe Olaseni, who scored a season-high 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds off the bench. Roy Devyn Marble scored a team-high 17 points, all in the second half. Aaron White added 14 points for the Hawkeyes (17-5, 6-3).
More later on HQ.
No. 15 Iowa 59, Illinois 57 — 11:56 second half
Kendrick Nunn started the second half in place of Rayvonte Rice and his three fouls. Nunn hit Joseph Bertrand with an alley-oop on the first possession and then scored in the paint on the next possession. Nunn was outstanding the first four minutes of the half.
Nunn did it on both ends of the floor, putting an Aaron White dunk attempt back in his face.
Iowa scored 43 points before Roy Devyn Marble cracked the scoring column.
Overheard at halftime: "Iowa might be the most talented team in the league, but they have no killer instinct." We will see here tonight if that holds to be true.
The crowd has continued to energize the team and they're feeding off it.
Jon Ekey has been active on the glass and Rayvonte Rice has been effective, too. Joseph Bertrand has been the best player on the court for Illinois throughout the night. He's got 16. The Illini are 10 for 13 from the floor this half.
One of the Illinois coaches, Groce or Dustin Ford, will break his hand on the scorer's table. They keep pounding it after their team screws up.
Illinois repeatedly lost Aaron White in transition and he made them pay for it.
No. 15 Iowa 40, Illinois 36 — Halftime
This is loud as it's been in this building in a very long time. Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill's threes late in the half sent this place up for grabs.
Illinois was down by 21 with seven minutes left and fought back to within four. I got some tweets saying this team has no heart. I'm not buying that.
The Illini closed the half on a 23-6 run if my math is correct.
Nunn nearly brought the place off its foundation with a dunk in the closing seconds, but the rim blocked it. He was fouled, though.
Iowa had a five-point play at 7:35 when Jarrod Uthoff hit a three and Joseph Bertrand foued Adam Woodbury away from the ball.
"We've got to attack the press right now, it's our best offense," Groce said at the 10:16 mark.
Maverick Morgan took exception to a hard foul. His teammates stepped in to pull him back.
The officials tonight, John Gaffney, Kelly Pfeifer and Bill Ek, are not familiar faces. Groce has been in their faces plenty, though.
After a bad foul called against Maverick Morgan, Groce yelled "That's unbelievable!"
Fran McCaffery, no stranger to blowups at the officials, nearly got a technical going into the under-4 timeout.
Austin Colbert checked in midway through the half, his first action after five straight games on the bench. He last played at Wisconsin.
The Orange Krush forced a bad shot from Uthoff with a fake shot clock count.
When the Illini got beat on the defensive end on a free throw blackout, John Groce looked at Dustin Ford with an incredulous look and raised his palms.
There's a fan sitting in the bleachers immediately behind the Illinois bench heckling John Groce and criticizing his offense.
Ever notice that Devyn Marble has the Detroit Tigers' "D" logo tattooed on his left triceps and the Miami Marlins "M" tattooed on his right triceps.
On that possession where Marble was called for carrying, the Illinois bench had been calling for it earlier in that possession.
"You have to stop refereeing every play," one of the officials told Groce after Rice was whistled for his third foul.
Illinois shot 42.3 percent (11 for 26) from the floor and 4 for 7 (57.1 percent) from three. The Illini got 12 points from Joseph Bertrand, and five each from Jon Ekey, Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn.
Iowa shot 11 for 28 (39.3 percent) from the floor and 3 for 8 (37.5 percent) from three-point range.
The Hawkeyes were led by Gabe Olaseni's 11 points. Roy Devyn Marble is scoreless.
Iowa won the rebounding battle 25-12.
No. 15 Iowa 15, Illinois 9 — 11:57 first half
When Illinois lost Zach McCabe and Josh Oglesby on back-to-back possessions that each resulted in three-pointers, and nary John Groce called timeout.
Out of that timeout, worth Iowa in a zone, Groce kept yelling at his guys to "Attack this thing." They got it in to Egwu for an easy short hook.
Illinois continues to lose Iowa's best shooters and it's got the coaching staff hot.
Nnanna Egwu picked up two fouls in the first two and a half minutes of the game. He came came back in at the 13:53 mark.
Joseph Bertrand's been active early. He had the first two buckets and he's been aggressive on the boards.
The Illini started 2 for 10 and the Hawkeyes were 5 for 7 during that same stretch.
Dustin Ford got after Maverick Morgan during the first media timeout.
"Fellas, we've got to have some toughness on our screening and cutting," Groce told the bench.
Rayvonte Rice grabbed a grown-man rebound early and it got Loren Tate out of his seat.
Atta a boy, ginger, a UI fan yelled at Mike Gesell.
Aaron Cosby isn't on the Illinois bench tonight. He got hurt in practice. Nothing serious, I'm told.
Some Iowa fans behind me got front-row seats, somehow. They've been very vocal.
No. 15 Iowa (16-5, 5-3) at Illinois (13-8, 2-6) — TIPOFF (BTN)
A hefty chorus of boos went up when Iowa took the floor with six minutes to go before tip. That's what student support can do for you.
John Groce and Fran McCaffery are both wearing pins on their suits tonight in support of Autism Speaks.
The Illini are going with the same starters that you've come to know all season. Tracy Abrams, Rayvonte Rice, Joseph Bertrand, Jon Ekey and Nnanna Egwu will start.
Iowa will go with Mike Gesell, Roy Devyn Marble, Aaron White, Melsahn Basabe and Adam Woodbury. Iowa will play about 10 guys throughout the game tonight.
The Illinois football program is hosting 20 or so recruits today for junior day. They'll be here at the game tonight, including new QB commit Jimmy Fitzgerald.
Maggie Fitzgerald, sister of Jimmy, just said "It's a good day."
Michael Finke is expected to be here tonight. The Illinois commit dropped 26 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.
UI women's point guard Alexis Smith is seated in the Illini family section.
WAND sports director Matt Loveless, a big Seahawks fans, is counting down the hours and minutes to tomorrow's Super Bowl. He said if the second sports guy calls in sick, the weather girl will do the sports.
Jeni Thomas, wife of Mike Thomas, says Mike is fired up for the Super Bowl, too. He's a big Broncos fan. He's probably going to watch the game at a friend's house. Mike came to his weekly WDWS appearance today with Loren Tate and Steve Kelly wearing a Broncos hat.
Thomas, Mannie Jackson and UI Chancellor Phyllis Wise, just made their way to their seats together.
No. 15 Iowa (16-5, 5-3) at Illinois (13-8, 2-6) — 6:30 p.m. BTN
Hard to believe it's been almost two months since the Orange Krush was here for a game. The last time the student section was in place for a home game here was Dec. 10 against Dartmouth. Illinois went 2-2 without its sixth man leading the cheers.
Welcome back, Krush.
A guy who has played well of late for the Illini is Nnanna Egwu. The big man from Chicago's St. Ignatius has scored 18 points in the last two games with 14 rebounds. Anything Nnanna provides offensively, John Groce said, is a bonus.
"His strength is he's a monster on defense. He was ridiculous defensively on Sunday. He graded out, I don't know what the number was; it was sick," Groce said. "He's been good on defense. The thing we need him to do is rebound the ball and he's done that really well in the last two games. I'm more focused on that. I don't want to say I don't care, I want them all to go in, 4 for 6, 2 for 6, 5 for 8, 3 for 7, whatever it is, he usually takes pretty good ones. He's not a guy shooting 15, 20 times a game. Is that the solution to that will make you play so much better? A little bit. He's got to be really good defensively and we need him to rebound the ball and he's done that much better per minute played the last couple games and I think that's been really encouraging."
Mannie Jackson, who this week donated $3 million to the State Farm Center project, will be honored at half-time. Jackson spoke to the team last night during a dinner at John Groce's house.
Kenny Battle is in the house. The last time he was here, the Illini won. They beat Penn State that day by 20. Good vibes from No. 33?
There are some Iowa fans here chanting "Let's go, Hawks!" One guy is wearing yellow and black striped overalls.
They just asked an Illinois fan to take their picture. Too bad this isn't the old days of the film cameras where you could cut their heads off without them knowing it. That would be funny.
I've now also seen some orange and blue striped overalls.
Happy birthday to Jeremy Werner from ESPN Radio here in Champaign. Jeremy, who began his fine career at The News-Gazette, is 27 today. I'm going to buy him a beer tonight.
No. 15 Iowa (16-5, 5-3) at Illinois (13-8, 2-6) — 6:30 p.m. BTN
Good evening, hope you're staying dry and safe wherever you may be. It's nasty out there. Cold, rain, ice, flooding, you name it. I wonder what kind of affect the weather will have on attendance tonight.
There was a rumor that the Iowa student section might be making an appearance here at State Farm Center tonight, a la, the Orange Krush. I saw a bunch of Iowa students walking outside the arena here on my way in about two hours before the game. There will be some here, maybe more. They were having trouble walking on the ice out there, many of them holding hands or arms locked.
The Hawkeyes are coming into this one off a loss in their last game at home to Michigan State on Tuesday. If you watched that game, you might have noticed the Iowa fans booed every. Single. Call made against their team. Iowa shot 43 free throws to Michigan State's 20.
I watched an Ahmad Starks workout before the game. I know you're sick of hearing this, but the dude can shoot it. He's been draining a bunch of contested threes on the move with a big football blocking dummy in his face among other things. The Illini sure could use his shot-making right now during this prolonged offensive slump.
You might already know this, but Illinois is averaging 55.7 points per game during this six-game skid.
Illinois spent a lot of time in practice this week with the six days in between games working on improving the offense.
"We've had a really good week. I thought the bye came at a good time for us. We got guys some rest that had played a lot of minutes," John Groce said.
Malcolm Hill was the first of the eligible Illini on the floor tonight.
I picked Iowa to win tonight, but wouldn't be at all surprised if Illinois found a way. Iowa hasn't won in this building since 1999. And the Big Ten has been nuts this week.
How about Northwestern? The 'Cats have won five of their last seven, including wins at Wisconsin and Minnesota this week. They've won three straight conference road games for the first time since 1954. Chris Collins is a serious candidate for Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Stephen Bardo is calling the game for BTN tonight. He said the network felt bad he hadn't been on an Illini broadcast this season so they gave him the gig tonight.
Bardo just reminded me that gas was $0.91 the last time the Hawkeyes won a game in this building.
The Illini will wear orange tonight. Iowa will wear black.
Just got word that Centennial quarterback Jimmy Fitzgerald, a junior, committed to the Illini today.