The opening game of the Big 10 Tournament foreshadowed what promises to be a tremendous tournament. The Iowa Hawkeyes took over in the 2nd half behind Senior Matt Gatens and Freshman Aaron White and brought down the reeling Illinois Fighting Illini 64-61.
Illinois had lost 11 of their last 13 games coming into the tournament and simply didn’t have enough to knock off the determined Hawkeyes. Fran McCaffery’s team wore out the Illini with their up tempo offense, worked their tails off on the offensive glass, and just had a little bit more in the tank when it counted most.
A few missed free throws down the wire by Devyn Marble and White nearly cost the Hawkeyes the game.
The win by the Hawkeyes breaks a 7-game losing streak against Illinois.
Matt Gatens topped the scoring list with 20 points on 7-12 shooting as he remains red-hot down the stretch. The inspired play of White may have been the difference for the Hawkeyes though. The big, savvy freshman worked his way to 13 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 steals.
This is likely the last game to be coached by Bruce Weber as the head man in Champaign. His team failed to make it to the free throw line even once during the course of the game.
Meyers Leonard scored 18 points and pulled down 6 boards to lead the way for Illinois.
Iowa will now take on the #1 seed Michigan State Spartans on Friday afternoon. If Iowa can pull the upset and get that win, it will officially put the NCAA selection committee on high alert. These Hawkeyes are on the brink.
Follow me on Twitter @isportsJoe