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1/29 Big Ten Recap: Illinois Tops Iowa

Recap all the Big Ten action from Friday.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten’s only game on Friday was a massive showdown between Illinois and Iowa in Champaign. The game ended up going down to the final minutes with each team’s stars making some crucial plays.

Let’s take a look at what happened.

Game of the Night:

-No. 19 Illinois Fighting Illini 80, No. 7 Iowa Hawkeyes 75

This was the matchup we’ve been waiting for. When the NBA Draft deadline passed last summer and we learned the league would be welcoming back three of its biggest stars in Luka Garza, Ayo Dosunmu, and Kofi Cockburn, this date got circled on the calendar—ok, we didn’t know the actual date because of COVID-19, but you get the point. This is the matchup we’ve been waiting to see since we got that news. And while some of the luster of this one dissipated with some early season losses, it still set up as a marquee showdown.

The game itself largely lived up to the hype. Iowa started well, but Illinois closed the game by halftime and things went back and forth after that. Luka Garza delivered 19 points for the Hawkeyes and Trent Frazier had quite a showing for Illinois with 24 points and four rebounds. Iowa held a narrow lead with 2:44 left, before Andre Curbelo and Jacob Grandison did just enough to get Illinois across the finish line for an 80-75 win.

It’s hard to undersell the significance of this one for Illinois. The team had a good resume coming into Friday night, but lacked an elite win to set itself apart. It needed that one win to show it was capable of bigger things in March and it got it on Friday. The win pushes Illinois to 11-5 overall and 7-3 in Big Ten play and keeps it alive in the Big Ten title race. Illinois is now tied for second in the league standings, two games back from Michigan.

On the other side, this is a disappointing one for Iowa, especially after last week’s debacle against Indiana. The Hawkeyes now sits at just 12-4 overall, 6-3 in Big Ten Play, and have lost two straight for the first time this season. Things should get easier with a more manageable slate moving forward, but the team’s Big Ten title hopes took a real hit with this loss. Iowa now needs some real help from Michigan to get back in the race.

Moving forward, Illinois gets Indiana on the road on Tuesday. Iowa gets Michigan State at home on Tuesday. Both the Illini and Hawkeyes should be favored.