Torrid Shooting Lifts Illinois Over Iowa
Dec. 29, 2010
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The 23rd-ranked Fighting Illini spoiled Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery's Big Ten coaching debut by running out 87-77 winners on Wednesday night in front of a sellout crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hawkeyes showed the ability to comeback in the game, as the squad rallied from a 19-point second half deficit to within six points midway through the half. Iowa had its opportunities to close the gap even more, but free throw shooting was again an issue, as the squad missed 4-of-6 free throw attempts during a key stretch and it made 8-of-15 for the game.
"I thought we battled," said McCaffery. "We kept coming. I was disappointed in the start of the second half, how we came out in the second half. But I am proud of my guys, how they fought and we're getting better, and we'll keep getting better."
Illinois used an unbelievable shooting night from long range to snap its two-game losing streak and win its Big Ten opener. The Fighting Illini made 13-of-18 three-point field goal attempts (.722) and shot 66.7 percent (32-48) from the floor in the victory.
"This is a team that's difficult to defend because they have multiple three-point shooters and a phenomenal point guard," said McCaffery. "When you're a 7-1 guy and you can hit a three and your subs are hitting threes. You know they are going to stretch the defense and that gives (Demetri) McCamey more time to penetrate."
After leading by 12 points at the break, Illinois opened the second half with a 9-2 run over the first two minutes to push the advantage to 58-39 to force an Iowa timeout at the 18:09 mark. The timeout halted Illinois' momentum, and the Hawkeyes responded.
"We didn't come out strong in the second half right out of the gates like we wanted to," said junior Matt Gatens, who paced Iowa with 21 points with five three-pointers. "They ran a couple of sets at us; hit a three and an alley-oop, got it up to 19. It was good to see us knock it down to six, and be right back in the game and have a chance in the end."
Back-to-back three-pointers by Gatens and May trimmed the deficit to 58-45. Junior Bryce Cartwright then followed with a fast break lay-up and Gatens made a pair of free throws to get the Hawkeyes to within single digits at 58-49.
After four straight Illinois points made the score 62-49, Gatens and Roy Devyn Marble netted back to back jumpers and Eric May made 1-of-2 at the free throw line to make the score 62-54. After forcing an Illinois turnover, the Hawkeyes sent an outlet pass to May for a fast break, but llinois' Jereme Richmond grabbed him and was whistled for an intentional foul. May, however, couldn't convert at the charity stripe, and Iowa also came up empty on the ensuing possession.
"I thought that was a huge momentum swing for us," said McCaffery of coming up with no points after the intentional foul. "I feel bad for Eric because I thought he played well. He worked really hard defensively. He was right in the middle of a lot of things."
After a McCamey three put the Fighting Illini up 11 (65-54), the Hawkeyes got a three-point play from Zach McCabe and Marble connected on a jumper and was fouled. Marble, however, missed his chance at a three-point play, keeping the score 65-59 with 8:21 left.
McCamey then extended the lead with five straight Illinois points. The senior guard made a runner from just inside the three-point arc to beat the shot clock before connecting on a long ball with around seven minutes to play to push the Fighting Illini's lead back to 11 (70-59).
"He (McCamey) is one of the best point guards in the country and you have to expect things like that out of him," said Gatens of McCamey performing in the clutch. "One time he hit a leaner from around three-point range at the end of a shot clock. It was good defense, but it was even a better shot. It's tough to overcome things like that, but we have to learn to avoid them and keep battling."
With Iowa leading 15-11 five minutes in, Illinois broke the game open with a three-point barrage. D.J. Richardson and Bill Cole took turns nailing long balls on four straight possessions to make the score 23-15. The four long balls ignited a 16-0 Illinois run that turned the four point deficit into a 27-15 lead.
The Fighting Illini made their first seven three point field goal attempts and 8-of-9 field goals over the first eight minutes of the contest. Iowa, on the other hand, made 5-of-7 shots to start the game before missing 5-of-its-next-6 attempts.
Illinois shot 64 percent (18-28) from the floor and a blistering 83 percent (10-12) from long range in the first half to build a 49-37 halftime lead. The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, shot 50 percent (15-30) from the field and 36.4 (4-11) from three-point land. Iowa made 3-of-4 three pointers to start the game before going 1-of-7 over the final 16 minutes.
The Hawkeyes will now have six days off to prepare for their next game, but things won't get any easier as they will welcome No. 2 Ohio State in to Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Jan. 4.