CHAMPAIGN — The 2013-14 Big Ten basketball season can be summed up in one word: wacky.
It got a little bit wackier on Saturday night.
The Iowa Hawkeyes blew a 21-point advantage in the first half, but hung on to defeat the Fighting Illini 81-74 on Saturday evening at the State Farm Center in Champaign.
The loss extended the Illini’s current losing streak to seven games, and also, some soul searching for head coach John Groce.
“This one stings just as much as any of them, but I liked the way the team responded once we got down by 21,” Groce said. “At the end of the day, I can live with that one, because they literally fought their tails off tonight”.
The Illini appeared clueless for much of the first half, as they trailed 34-13 with 7 minutes, 34 seconds left on the clock.
If it could go wrong for the Illini in the first 13 minutes of play, it pretty much did, as they looked listless and confused on both ends of the floor.
To make matters worse, the Hawkeyes were in the bonus for a good portion of the half as well, which gave them an added advantage.
But then, all of a sudden, things started to click and the Illini began slowly chipping away at the lead.
Over the course of the final seven minutes of the half, the Illini went on a 23-6 run to trail 40-36 going into the halftime locker room, and thus, gained some much needed momentum heading into the second half of the game.
“I was really happy with our defense, especially the last five minutes of the game”, Iowa head coach Fran McCaffrey said. “It was a very unique game to say the least, and they (Illinois) struggled to make a shot for a long period of the first half.