IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP)—For at least a day, Iowa put aside its shooting troubles.
Coming off one of their worst shooting performances under coach Steve Alford, Iowa rebounded Saturday to beat No. 6 Illinois 63-48, snapping the Illini’s 15-game winning streak.
The Hawkeyes (12-4, 1-1 Big Ten) did just enough on offense. Jeff Horner had 16 points and helped Iowa take command in the second half, when the Hawkeyes scored 40 points on 53 percent shooting and 18-of-21 from the free throw line.
But it was the defense that flustered the Illini (15-1, 1-1), who were held under 50 points for the first time since Michigan State did it Feb. 11, 1999.
“I know how good Illinois is, so to beat that team the way we did today, and to defend, we can guard anybody,” said Alford, whose team shot a miserable 17 percent in the second half in a loss to Wisconsin earlier in the week, the worst second-half performance in his seven-year tenure.
“We told them we don’t care if you shoot 25 percent in this game today. Make sure you’ve been guarding the way we’ve been guarding,” Alford said.
The Hawkeyes did just that.
In a physical battle between two of the Big Ten’s best defensive teams, Iowa held Illinois to 35 percent shooting and shut down flashy point guard Dee Brown, who scored six points on 2-of-13 shooting—one game after he scored a career-high 34 in a victory over No. 7 Michigan State.
The Illini, who had won 54 of their last 55 regular-season games, committed 16 turnovers, trailed the entire second half and shot 19 percent from 3-point range.
“Coach always talks about the basketball gods, how they’ll allow 40 one night and four the next,” said Illini center James Augustine, who led Illinois with 14 points and nine rebounds. “But we don’t have to put everything on Dee’s shoulders. We needed to have somebody else step up, and that didn’t really happen.”
Illinois’ first loss came after a grueling win over the Spartans, a game coach Bruce Weber said may have drained his team’s emotional tank.
“It was such a high the other night. Maybe it was all blown out of proportion,” Weber said. “They weren’t hyped up out there early. It shows you how vulnerable you are if you’re not ready.”
Illinois has a week off before heading into a stretch of three games in eight days, including a Jan. 17 trip to Indiana.
“Hopefully with this week off we can get it back together,” Augustine said. “I don’t think (the offense) is running as smoothly as we want it to. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Iowa, which plays Saturday at Penn State, also got 15 points from Adam Haluska and 10 points from Mike Henderson. The win also snapped a four-game losing streak against the Illini, and fans savored the moment by rushing the court to celebrate with the team after time expired.
Iowa shot 35 percent and made 3-of-11 3-pointers. The difference was at the free throw line, where the Hawkeyes went 24-of-32, compared to 7-of-15 for Illinois.
The Hawkeyes led 23-19 at the half then extended it to nine when Haluska nailed a 3-pointer 3:27 into the second half. Iowa opened the second half with a 9-4 run, then grabbed its first double-digit lead when Haluska swished a 3-pointer to put Iowa up 38-28.
The Illini cut it to six 3 minutes later when Chester Frazier scored on a one-hander in the paint and Jamar Smith’s 3-pointer on the next possession brought Illinois to 41-38. But the Illini would get no closer.
Haluska sank a pair of free throws on its next possession, triggering a 14-5 run over the next 7 minutes.
Horner sank all six of his free throws in the final minute to seal the win.
“I think it’s a huge boost for us,” said Haluska. “The Wisconsin loss was bad, but we knew we could pick up from it, and there’s a lot of teams left to play.”
Brown’s struggles started early. His only point in the first half came when he sank the second of two free throws at 8:05. He missed all six of his shot attempts, including a pair of fast-break layups and with just one assist struggled to create scoring chances against Iowa’s aggressive man-to-man defense.