UI 66, Iowa 63: 'The kid made a tough shot'
IOWA CITY, Iowa — At Monday’s Rebounders luncheon to bid farewell to seniors Joseph Bertrand and Jon Ekey, a fan in attendance grabbed the mic and excitedly asked Ekey what it felt like to make the game-winning shot when Illinois beat Indiana.
She had mistaken him for Tyler Griffey, whose layup last season at the buzzer felled the top-ranked Hoosiers. Ekey took the gaffe in stride.
“That’s been happening all year,” he said at the time.
Saturday, the fifth-year transfer from Illinois State had his Tyler Griffey moment, rising above the Iowa defense to drill a three-pointer with 0.5 second remaining, leading the Illini to a 66-63 win against the 24th-ranked Hawkeyes, spoiling Senior Day for Roy Devyn Marble & Co.
“The kid made a tough shot. You’ve got to give it to the kid,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
“Jon makes a big play,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “I was really happy for Jon and Joe — two seniors playing their last regular season game. Both made big-time plays.”
“It’s the first one that’s ever actually fallen for me at the end of a game, so it was a big one,” Ekey said.
That guy dressed as an Elvis impersonator in the front row, complete with a bedazzled Iowa black-and- gold jumpsuit, did indeed leave the building. He was just more disappointed than he expected as the Hawkeyes lost at home to an unranked opponent for the first time in 31 games.
Illinois (18-13, 7-11 Big Ten) got a balanced scoring effort, led by Rayvonte Rice (15 points, five rebounds) and Nnanna Egwu (14 points, six rebounds) to enter the Big Ten tournament with some momentum.
“Our goal was to be playing our best basketball heading into Season 3,” Groce said. “We had a little hiccup there the other night (84-53 loss to Michigan), but our body of work the last two to three weeks, we’re clearly playing the best we have at both ends simultaneously. That’s a good position to be in.”
The Illini, who limited Marble to eight points, about 10 below his average, are still in play for seeds 7 and 9 depending on the outcomes of Sunday's game between Penn State and Minnesota. If Penn State wins, the Illini are the 7, if Minnesota wins, they're the 9.
Ekey finished with 12 points and six rebounds, while freshman Kendrick Nunn added 10 points and four assists.
The Hawkeyes (20-11, 9-9) were led by Aaron white’s 12 points and eight rebounds.