Illinois started out fast and never trailed as they defeated Iowa 81-68 at Assembly Hall in Champaign, IL, in a game that could not afford to lose as they march towards the NCAA Tournament. Illinois was led in scoring by Mike Tisdale, who scored 25 points and had 5 rebounds.
The Illini got off to a very quick start and scored the first 10 points of the game and did not let Iowa get into their offense and forced 3 turnovers in Iowa's first 3 possessions. Iowa did not score until four and a half minutes were gone, with a layup by Roy Devyn Marble. Iowa then went on a run of their own, outscoring Illinois 13-2 over the next 3 minutes, culminating with a Jarryd Cole 3 point play, to tie the game at 13-13.
The first half was a game of runs, and then it would be Illinois's turn as they outscored the Hawkeyes 16-2 to take a 29-15 lead with 5:32 left in the first half. Fran McCaffery's team clawed back in the run in towards the break, and with Bryce Cartwright's buzzer beater, his fifth of the season, Iowa pulled back the gap to 5, and the Illini led 36-31 at the break.Iowa started quick in the 2nd half and got within a possession, trailing 38-35 before Illinois began to exert their will on the game. The Illini attacked the basket and went on a 10-0 run, capped with a Tisdale 3 pointer that gave Illinois a 48-35 lead. Iowa worked to get back into the game, led by Bryce Cartwright and Melsahn Basabe. Cartwright had 8 points and 9 assists, and Basabe led all Iowa scorers with 17 points and also had 7 rebounds. Iowa would never threaten the lead of the Illini, who coasted to victory.
The win moves Illinois to 18-11 on the year and 8-8 in the conference. Illinois has to go to Purdue before finishing at home against Indiana. With the loss, Iowa moves to 10-18 overall and 3-13 in conference. They have a tough run in, with games at Michigan State and against Purdue at home.