Game 1: Iowa Hawkeyes knock out Illinois, advance to play Michigan

Game 1: Iowa Hawkeyes knock out Illinois, advance to play Michigan

No. 12 Iowa and No. 13 Illinois had the honor of tipping off the Big Ten tourney. And Hawkeyes live another day, taking a 96-87 decision. This is a nice boost for Fran McCaffery’s crew, which has had a largely dreary season.

Up next for Iowa is a game vs. No. 5 Michigan, one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten which is riding a five-game winning streak as it arrives in New York. The lllini head home with a 14-18 mark and will miss the NCAA tourney for the fifth year in a row, as first-year coach Brad Underwood continues to put his stamp on the program. It’s the second time in three years Illinois has finished with a losing mark.

The last time Illinois had a winning Big Ten record? You have to go back to 2009-10.

Top star: Iowa G Jordan Bohannon needed to have a big game … and he delivered, pouring in a team-high 25 points on 6-of-10 shooting. The super soph also nailed 5-of-7 3-pointers and eight of his free throws. And he had six assists. Take a bow. Full box score right here.

Top stat: 31, points for Illinois’ Kipper Nichols, the most in the game and a career high. The 6-6 sophomore hit 10-of-18 shots, 5-of-9 3-pointers and six free throws. Nichols had scored a combined 15 points in the three previous games.

Top shot: With Iowa up just 63-61 midway through the second half, the Hawkeyes’ Tyler Cook hit a sweet running one-hander that banked in.

Top dunk: In the first half, Iowa’s Tyler Cook stormed in on the right wing and delivered a thunderous two-handed jam that rattled the backboard.

It was over when …: Iowa was clinging to a 63-61 lead midway through the second half. That’s when Hawkeye big man Tyler Cook hit a running one-hander that banked in … and he was fouled. Cook missed the free throw but Jordan Bohannon corralled the rebound and drained a three. Illinois called timeout. Just like that, the Hawkeye lead was pushed to 68-61 with 9:50 to go. Illinois’ Mark Smith launched an airball on the Illini’s next possession and Iowa’s Luka Garza hit a hoop to make it 70-61, Hawkeyes.

Did you see that? In the second half, Illinois coach Brad Underwood got T-d up for arguing with the officials. No doubt, Underwood is one of the fieriest coaches in the Big Ten.

Notable:  Iowa’s 96 points tonight is a school record for most points in a Big Ten Tourney game… Iowa now has scored 50+ points in the second half for the fifth time in the last nine games and eight times total.

Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.