Bob's buzzer beaters | It's tournament time for happy Illini

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Iowa had everything to play for against Illinois, including its fading NCAA tournament hopes, on Sunday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Consider them on life support.

Brad Underwood's team built a big early lead and held off multiple Hawkeyes rally tries in a 73-61 victory.

Illinois swept the season series against its bitter rival while doing major damage to Iowa's postseason plans. Two birds, one stone.

The win also sets up Illinois for a happy week of practice going into the Big Ten tournament. Well, happy might be a bit strong.

The Illini finish 23-8 overall in another productive regular season.

HOT OFF THE PRESS#Illini close regular season with a bang

— The News-Gazette (@news_gazette) March 11, 2024


How do you feel about rematches? One is possible in Friday's Big Ten tournament quarterfinal if Iowa wins its second-round game. The Hawkeyes tied with Indiana and Michigan State for sixth place in the Big Ten. Iowa lands at No. 7 based on the tiebreakers.

Hats off to Indiana for finishing strong after it looked like Mike Woodson's job was in danger.

Maybe the fans that bought the tickets for these empty seats went to Minneapolis instead to watch the Iowa women's team win the Big Ten tournament? #Illini #B1G

— Scott Richey (@srrichey) March 10, 2024


Terrence Shannon Jr. bounced back from a difficult game against Purdue on Tuesday to lead his team in scoring Sunday. The likely All-Big Ten first-team finished with 25 points. He had 18 at the break, hitting 7 of 11 shots.


Rough start for Illinois senior Marcus Domask, who was 1 of 9 28 minutes into the game. He turned it around later and finished with 11 points. He has a good chance to be named All-Big Ten this week thanks to his entire body of work.

T-minus 35 minutes to tip-off in Iowa City. #Illini #B1G

— Scott Richey (@srrichey) March 10, 2024


Sunday's win makes it a 1-1 week for No. 12 Illinois, including a close loss to No. 3 Purdue. No shame there. Combined with a victory on the road, it is possible the Illini will climb back into the Top 10. Worst case, the team stays about where it was.

The Associated Press Top 25 will be released Monday. News-Gazette beat writer Scott Richey is one of the voters, which makes me feel better about the whole thing.

Caitlin Clark is officially in the building.

— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) March 10, 2024


Sunday's game was sold out, but that didn't mean everyone in the building was wearing Iowa's gold/yellow and black. Lots and lots of orange and blue in the stands and roaming outside the aging arena before the game.

Holding NOTHING back! @quincyguerrier x @IlliniMBB

— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) March 10, 2024


Carver-Hawkeye Arena is functional to be sure. But way down the list of the best in the Big Ten. No one ever called it pretty. Or unique. Last I checked, the place has no air conditioning. Which works just fine on a 50 degree day in I.C. Not so much during graduation ceremonies in 90 degree heat in May. Toasty.


Forgive the Iowa fans if they were a bit distracted Sunday. The bigger game was 302 miles away at the Target Center in Minneapolis, where the Iowa women's basketball team beat Nebraska in overtime for the Big Ten title.

If Caitlin Clark had been playing at Carver-Hawkeye on Sunday, there would have been nothing but the home team colors worn. She's that powerful. Like a super hero ... with a basketball.


Sadly, I won't be coming back to Iowa City in the fall to watch Illinois play the Hawkeyes in football. The teams won't play again at Kinnick Stadium until 2028.

Iowa is scheduled to visit Champaign's Memorial Stadium before that in 2026.

And there are no guarantees the Illinois men's basketball team will play at Iowa next season either. With 18 teams starting in the fall, Big Ten schools will have home-and-homes with only three of their conference rivals. Unless Iowa is designated as one of those for Illinois, we are only sure there will be one trip back to Iowa City in the next two seasons. Too bad.

On the bright side that gives Iowa time to build a new arena. Much needed in my opinion. Not that you asked.


Iowa honored four seniors before the game. The one guy Illinois fans will be happiest to see moving on is guard Tony Perkins. The Indianapolis native has been a pain for Illinois throughout his time with the Hawkeyes.

Perkins is hoping for a fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament. There is work to do.


When I get a minute after the season, I'm going to count the number of Illinois games Flyin' Illini member Stephen Bardo called for his various networks. He is either leading or tied with Robbie Hummel. He worked Sunday on Fox Sports 1 with play-by-play announcer Brandon Gaudin. They do a great job painting the picture while offering insight. Bardo manages to keep his feelings about his alma mater at a reasonable level.

Few announcers understand the series like Bardo.

"This matchup is always passion and emotion," he said.

After an early fast-break basket by Illinois, Bardo said "Most players have a fourth gear. Terrence Shannon has a fifth."