Illinois men’s basketball loses out against Iowa in close, foul-ridden road clash

Fifth-year+forward+Matthew+Mayer+makes+a+jump+shot+against+Nebraska+on+Tuesday.+The+Illini+and+Iowa+were+neck+and+neck+during+Saturdays+away+game%2C+which+ended+in+a+79-81+defeat+for+the+Illini.

Jacob Slabosz

Fifth-year forward Matthew Mayer makes a jump shot against Nebraska on Tuesday. The Illini and Iowa were neck and neck during Saturday’s away game, which ended in a 79-81 defeat for the Illini.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

It was a nail-biting game on Saturday as the Illini went to work against the Hawkeyes in a game riddled with fouls. By the end, Illinois’ three-game win streak was snapped in Iowa City as the team fell in an 81-79 defeat. The Illini are now 16-7 overall and 7-5 in the conference.

Head coach Brad Underwood sent out the same starting five that got the Illini on a three-game winning streak. Senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr., freshman guard Jayden Epps, fifth-year forward Matthew Mayer, junior forward Coleman Hawkins and redshirt sophomore Dain Dainja were the first ones to take the floor.

oring a triple before Kris Murray answered with a three for Iowa. The opening 10 minutes were tightly contested as neither team could pull away on the scoreboard. Mayer and Dainja led the way in scoring for the visitors, combining for all of the Illini’s points in the first five minutes. Freshman guard Ty Rodgers came off the bench and provided the visitors with immense energy, scoring four quick points on 2-2 shooting.

Despite the early lead, the Hawkeyes managed to hit big shots, including multiple from beyond the arc, boosting them to a 23-18 advantage at the 9:39 mark. The Illini were able to claw their way back after consecutive buckets from Mayer, sparking what became an 8-0 scoring run. Illinois had its lead back at 30-27 at the 5:51 mark.

Hawkins and Rodgers put together a 6-0 run to close out the half as Iowa’s shooting form took a dramatic hit. However, right on the brink of halftime the Hawkeyes regrouped and put together a 6-0 run of their own, cutting the Illini lead to 36-35 heading into the break.

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    Illinois got going on an 11-0 run early in the second half after buckets from Dainja, Epps and Shannon. Top-tier defense from the Illini forced the Hawkeyes into a 3:35 scoring drought.

    The momentum was lost after two consecutive fouls by Rodgers sent the Hawkeyes to the free-throw line for four straight points. Shannon committed a foul shortly after, allowing Iowa to cut Illinois’ lead down to two at 49-47.

    Epps went to work and scored 12 straight points to maintain the Illini’s narrow lead. By the 11:51 mark, the visitors were up by four at 55-51. Mayer completed a crucial three-point play followed by two straight finishes in the paint by Dainja. However, the Illini continued to commit personal fouls that allowed the Hawkeyes chances to keep the game close.

    At the 7:28 mark, Mayer picked up a fourth foul as Tony Perkins shot 2-2 from the line, cutting Illinois’ lead to 65-64. The Illini could not stop fouling, with Hawkins sending Perkins back to the line. Iowa sparked a 6-0 run that regained the Hawkeyes’ lead at 68-65.

    Shannon began to heat up, completing a three-point play and shooting 2-2 from the free-throw line on Illinois’ next possession. The Chicago native tied the game at 70-70 at the 4:32 mark.

    The final five minutes were extremely tight. Both teams were sent to the line on numerous occasions with Iowa remaining slightly ahead. That is, until Mayer nailed a huge three-point attempt to tie the game at 76-76 with 2:44 on the clock.

    The Hawkeyes received a huge boost after a three from Payton Sandfort. Sophomore guard RJ Melendez helped the Illini cut the deficit to two at 80-78 after two free throw makes with 19 seconds left. However, the Illini couldn’t find the winner and lost 81-79 by the end of regulation.

    Illinois will be back in action on Tuesday, where it will return to Champaign to take on Minnesota at 7:30 p.m.

     

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