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Grades are in: Hawkins saves best for Iowa

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Player of the game

Illinois forward Coleman Hawkins

Whether or not Hawkins had the best game of his career in Illinois' 95-85 victory against Iowa on Saturday afternoon at State Farm Center is at least worth a debate. A triple-double in a blowout win against Syracuse last season is hard to beat. But putting up a career-high 30 points to go with five assists and five steals while shooting 82 percent from the field overall, 60 percent from three-point range and 82 percent at the free throw line is, at minimum, a close second. The circumstances of Saturday's performance factor into the equation, too. Hawkins needed a game like he had against the Hawkeyes given how much he struggled earlier in the week in the Illini's loss at Penn State, and only four first-half turnovers (and five for the game) marred an otherwise standout performance.

Backcourt

Illinois: B+

Iowa: B+

Terrence Shannon Jr. and Marcus Domask combined for 20 points on 32 percent shooting. A far cry from the efficient 50 they scored in Wednesday's loss at Penn State. But there were other guards that picked up the slack. Niccolo Moretti knocked down a pair of significant three-pointers, and Justin Harmon was perfect from the field en route to 12 points. Production that helped offset big games from Iowa's Josh Dix and Tony Perkins (38 combined points).

Frontcourt

Illinois: A

Iowa: B+

Hawkins' production clearly speaks for itself, but it wasn't all Illinois had to lean on from its frontcourt. Quincy Guerrier was more engaged in the first half, and backup big men Dain Dainja and Amani Hansberry provided a spark off the bench. Iowa countered with an efficient Ben Krikke, whose 15 points on 7 of 9 shooting could have been more — and more troublesome for the Illini — had he not been in second-half foul trouble.

Bench

Illinois: A+

Iowa: C

How Illinois coach Brad Underwood used his bench against Iowa was anomaly. Ten players getting at least 10 minutes of playing time apiece was beyond rare given how tight Underwood's rotation has been this season, but he stuck with it because it worked. Illinois finished with a 34-12 advantage on bench points because of the efforts of Harmon, Moretti, Dainja, Hansberry and Luke Goode.

Overall

Illinois: A-

Iowa: B

Saturday's win was a different kind of "find a way" for Illinois. Usually that's a phrase left for when shots down fall and a team's offense fails it. The Illini have been at the other end of the spectrum with an elite offense and a defense that's floundered, but any kind of a win was a necessity after Wednesday's loss at Penn State. Illinois has still yet to lose consecutive games this season, and that's a big reason why they're second in the Big Ten and holding on to a projected No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.