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Thursday, January 20, 2005
 
Illinois 73, Iowa 68 (OT)
Tell me that wasn't exciting - I think Buffalo Wild Wings was louder than most Carver-Hawkeye crowds. After stepping off the roller coaster that was the second half and overtime, I felt there were two ways to look at tonight's outcome. Obviously, there's the "we blew a great opportunity to knock off the #1 team" view. But there's also the "we made a great comeback against an excellent team in Assembly Hall and came up just short" outlook. Being the indifferent character that I am, I'll ride the fence throughout my post.

First, some positive notes. Yesterday (this morning?) I looked at a few things I thought Iowa could do to maximize their chances of victory (which were decidedly more concrete than Steve Lavin's "catch a break" gem). Did Iowa follow the Hawkeye Hoops plan of attack?

One of my keys was establishing a perimeter game. It was doubtful that Iowa could hold all of Illnois's shooters in check, and they didn't want to be in a situation of trading twos for threes. Enter Adam Haluska and Jeff Horner. Two guys who had been as cold as Embarrass, MN managed to hit 50% of their threes. Even Pierre Pierce dropped a couple deep shots on the left wing.

Find a shooter.......check.

One suggested strategy was to drive to the basket and get some Illini starters in foul trouble, forcing the Illini to use their thin bench. It seemed like Haluska heeded my advice and was trying to penetrate and draw contact, but he just couldn't get the calls in the second half. Iowa did manage to get Dee Brown and Deron Williams in a little foul trouble. Williams picked up his fourth with about 8:30 left in regulation, but still only missed about six minutes of the game. Brown picked up his third early in the second half and only played 30 of the game's 45 minutes.

Get Illinois in foul trouble..........so-so.

Next key to victory - limit Illinois's offensive rebounds. Hmmmm. Iowa gave up a lot of offensive boards (18), but Illinois also missed a lot of shots (45 FG and 2 live FT). So the Hawks let Illinois retain 38% of their missed attempts. More than you like to see, but not enough to put you away. Big Jack Ingram (check out that 'stache!) grabbed 4 offensive boards in only 12 minutes, and James Augustine added four of his own, giving Illinois 18 offensive rebounds to Iowa's 29 defensive rebounds. Is there anything as frustrating as holding a great offense in check for 30 seconds and then having Augustine pull the rebound away from Hansen?

Keep Illinois off the offensive glass.........so-so.

Related to that (but not mentioned yesterday), Iowa's offensive rebounding was anemic. They managed 9 offensive rebounds, or 24% of their chances.

One more thing I suggested - avoid careless turnovers. Iowa had 22 turnovers in about 81 possessions. Yikes, that's a 27% TO rate. You're not going to beat Northwestern with a performance like that, let alone Illinois. I know Pierce was going back to his home state and wanted to play hero and everything. Heck, I'll even give him credit for keeping Iowa in the game with a lot of his big shots. But how many potential points did he cost the team with his 7 TO's and futile 1-on-2 and 1-on-3 drives? And Horner doesn't get off the hook either - he had at least a couple terrible passes en route to 5 TO's. Give Illinois's trapping some credit too.

Eliminate stupid mistakes.........is that possible with Pierce playing 45 minutes?

In a surprising twist, it was free throws that made the biggest difference. Illinois shot 19 more free throws than Iowa, which I never would have expected. Iowa came in basically tied with Penn St for first in the Big Ten for FTA/FGA, while Illinois trailed everyone but Ohio St. Missed free throws also kept Iowa in the game, as Williams and Brown combined to miss 3 of 4 in the last minute of regulation.

So yes, Iowa certainly had a chance to steal a win from a great team, but shot themselves in the foot with their turnovers and poor rebounding.

But there are positives to draw from the game, too. Iowa held the country's best offense to 37 adjFG% on 22-67 FG and 6-28 3ptrs. They also forced 18 turnovers from one of the best ballhandling teams around. That's a 22% TO rate if you're scoring at home, or if you're by yourself. Iowa has held it's last two opponents to a combined 38 adjFG%. You have to like that.

You also have to like the upcoming schedule - Purdue, @ Northwestern, Indiana. Iowa looks like a team that should be better than its 1-3 conference record, but the next three games give them a good shot at climbing back above .500 and into the first tier of Big Ten teams.

Coming tomorrow or Saturday - preview of Saturday's Purdue game.

Comments:
Good analysis!!
IA made more FGs both as 3s and 2s than IL and still managed to lose the game. the biggest difference between the two teams was IL made 17 more free throws than IA and IL got 38% of their missed shots back. IA had a better Point per Field Goal attempt and the rest seems to be pretty much even.

Of course you had the benefit of watching the game whereas I watched from the Inkernet.
 
Thanks, Crow. I had to settle for the radio during the first half but made my way downtown for the second. I thought Iowa looked fairly good, considering their chances coming in.

Seeing Horner and Haluska stroke the three again got me as excited as anything else. Iowa needs them to step forward as scorers in order to lift the offensive burden currently placed on Pierce. Pierre is a talented player and can be part of a good offense, but he's too inefficient when he has to do everything himself.
 
What a tough, tough performance by your Hawkeyes. I already have been impressed by them but so much more so now and I gained a ton more extra respect for them last night. Capitalizing on just one early opportunity wins them that game in our house.

Get used to that 3 in the loss column in the conference because I think that's what your going to see there for awhile as the wins start to pile up. Last night's game may have been a loss for Iowa but I believe they will take some momentum out of it and finish strong in the conference. I feel sorry for every team that runs into the Hawkeyes in the tournament this year. Tough team!
 
From an Illini fan:
Good analysis, although I would argue that those 18 Illinois turnovers were mostly unforced. And I'm guessing Iowa fans would feel similarly about many of their 22 turnovers.

And I would not take a road game at Northwestern for granted. They were 7-1 at home in Big Ten games last year. They've pounded Indiana and played Illinois tough so far this year.

Overall, I thought Illinois was very sloppy and lacked focus. I think all the talk about the upcoming Wisconsin game distracted them from the task at hand. Iowa played decent but not great.
 
Thanks for the comments.

I, personally, am not taking any of the next three games for granted. Iowa has to play Purdue on a short turnaround - Saturday at 1:30 after getting home late Thursday night. The Boilermakers don't have a pretty record, but they haven't been beat by more than 11 in any Big Ten game, and they stayed within single digits against Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan State. Throw in Carl Landry (one of the best post players in the Big Ten) against Iowa's interior defense, and that game is suddenly looking closer than most might expect.

Northwestern, like you said, is generally tough at home. Their slow pace can keep the game close, especially if Iowa shoots like it did in their first three Big Ten contests.

If Iowa can win those two games, there might be that "looking ahead" factor against Indiana, as their next two games would be against Michigan State and Wisconsin. Not that Indiana should be taken lightly - they do currently have three times as many Big Ten wins as Iowa.
 
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