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Illinois Basketball Picks Up Big Ten Win #1,000 against Iowa

Illinois basketball got a cold reminder of how tough Big Ten play can be against Penn State. It knocked themselves two games out of first place in conference. It also came after a very good road win against Maryland.



Illinois Basketball Transfer Contacted by Blue Blood
Feb 24, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) reacts in the final seconds of a game against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the second half at State Farm Center.The Illinois fighting Illini won the game 95-85. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois basketball got a cold reminder of how tough Big Ten play can be against Penn State. It knocked themselves two games out of first place in the conference. It also came after a very good road win against Maryland. While the Illini struggled to contain the explosive Iowa Hawkeyes’ offense, they got enough stops down the stretch to lock up a 95-85 win. It’s the 1,000th win in the long history of Illinois in the Big Ten.

1. Variety of Life

Coleman Hawkins had a terrible end to the Penn State game. Among the many mistakes Illinois basketball made down the stretch, Hawkins’s missed free throws followed by fouling a three-point shooter was the loudest. Hawkins responded with one of the best performances of his career. Despite sitting the last four minutes of the first half with two fouls, Hawkins finished with a career-high 30 points on 11 shots. Illinois scored 95 points despite just 20 from Terrence Shannon Jr. and Marcus Domask. Hawkins’ ability to generate looks against Iowa’s mix of defenses powered that robust Illini attack. Iowa sold out to take away the paint as much as possible. They played zone, man, and pressed, at times daring Illinois to shoot. Hawkins shot 11 free throws, a testament to his physicality in this one. Hawkins will always have spice in his game, but the variety of ways Illinois can hurt opponents allows them to play with anyone in the country.

2. Bark and Bite

There was lots of noise made about how hard Illinois practiced after the Penn State loss. The Illini’s streak of allowing 80 or more points continued for a third straight game and five of the last six. However, when faced with another tight game going into the closing minutes, Illinois was able to get enough stops down the stretch to pull away and not let things get Penn State-y late. The Hawkeyes have a number of talented offensive players and Fran McCaffery is always one of the best offensive coaches in the country. It would’ve been great to see a dominating defensive performance. Brad Underwood was very quick on the trigger with the bench, looking for stops. In the end, it was Illinois starters who were able to make the plays to close down the game.

3. 1,000

In what will be the last year where College Basketball will resemble anything like the pre-conference expansion version, Illinois basketball got their 1,000th Big Ten win. It was the 20th win of the year for Illinois, their fifth 20-win season in a row. Coming against a conference foe as old as the Big Ten itself makes it all the sweeter. Despite a bad loss in Happy Valley, Illinois basketball is in a good spot right now. A lot of good young players contributed in a big way to the win. Amani Hansberry gave the Illini good minutes when he was in. Nico Moretti played 17 minutes, making two huge threes when the two teams were going back and forth. 10 players played 10 minutes or more, and all of them scored. Illinois is a massive program, with a rich history of great players. While moments like Penn State can happen, but they still have a ton of good players who have won a lot of games.

Illinois improves to 20-7, 11-4 in conference play. Minnesota will come to Champaign next, the final game of February.

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Brian is a former sports writer for the Daily Illini who has been covering Illinois Basketball for over 5 years. Brian is now the lead basketball reporter for Armchair Illini, the go-to source for Illinois athletics news. He has had work published on Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, USA Today and more.