Iowa-Illinois Preview

Iowa has made a habit of responding well after losses. Whether the 15th-ranked Hawkeyes can continue that trend following their most biting defeat thus far remains to be seen.

They’ll look for their first win at Illinois in nearly 15 years Saturday night against the sputtering Fighting Illini.

The Hawkeyes (16-5, 5-3 Big Ten) are 4-0 immediately following losses, winning by an average of 21.5 points. While their first four defeats came by a total of 20 points, Tuesday’s 71-69 overtime loss to No. 7 Michigan State could be even more difficult to forget after Iowa led for 15:12 of the second half against a Spartans squad missing two injured starters.

"I didn’t think we were tough enough," coach Fran McCaffery said.

Iowa endured a 14:50 drought without a field goal that didn’t end until a layup with six seconds left in overtime by Roy Devyn Marble, who scored a game-high 21. Marble missed a potential winning runner at the end of regulation, then Mike Gesell missed a contested layup at the end of overtime.

The loss came despite 23 more free-throw attempts than Michigan State, though Iowa hit just 30 of its 43 foul shots. The Hawkeyes have shot 73.3 percent from the stripe in their wins compared to 68.7 in defeats.

Iowa’s seven assists were a season low and a 38-all tally in rebounds marked the first time the Hawkeyes have failed to claim the rebounding advantage in conference play since a win in their opener over Nebraska. They came in averaging a league-best plus-8.4 margin in Big Ten games.

"Any loss in this league is big, when you’re going up against a team of that caliber," Aaron White, who shot 1 for 4 with 10 points, told the team’s website. "They’re in second place in our league, and we could have jumped them. It is a big letdown."

The Hawkeyes are 14-61 all-time in Champaign, losing 11 in a row and 22 of 23 with the last victory there coming Feb. 21, 1999. Illinois (13-8, 2-6) had won nine of 10 in the series overall before dropping the last two matchups.

This Illini squad comes in reeling, looking to avoid its first seven-game skid since Jan. 3-23, 1999. Illinois is averaging 55.7 points on 34.6 percent shooting during its losing streak after averaging 72.3 points and shooting 43.9 percent during a 13-2 start.

The Illini shot 33.3 percent and 5 of 23 from 3-point range in Sunday’s 56-46 loss at Indiana. Rayvonte Rice scored 20 on 7-of-11 shooting after averaging 10.0 points on 26.6 percent shooting in the previous five games, but Illinois’ four other starters were a combined 7 of 28 from the floor.

"The one thing about bad shooting, I mean it’s not like they’re trying to miss them, they just have to figure out how to get them in the hoop," coach John Groce said. "Our margin for error is so small. We are not good enough to not have everybody hitting on all cylinders for us to beat quality basketball teams. I’ve known that from the jump. We have to get to where we can get everybody in sync and everybody playing well simultaneously."

Second-leading scorer Tracy Abrams (12.1 ppg) has shot a combined 3 for 19 with 12 points in three career matchups with Iowa.

Illinois leads the series 81-68.