Illinois Falls To #5 Iowa, 77-65
Fifth-ranked Iowa got 23 points from junior Peter Jok, en route to a 77-65 win over Illinois Sunday at the State Farm Center in Champaign.
Jarrod Uthoff added 18 points and 12 rebounds, and Adam Woodbury contributed 10 points and 14 rebounds for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery identified maturity as the key to Jok's success.
“I think you’re seeing a much more complete player,” said McCaffery. “Defensively, I mean the steal he made midway through the second half, maybe just before that, was a big-time momentum shift. It gave us another basket. And I just think you’re watching a guy who, when he was young, was a guy who made some mistakes, and he’s not doing that anymore.
Among the Illini, Jalen Coleman-Lands led with 17 points, including 5-of-11 three-pointers. Malcolm Hill added 14 points and 8 rebounds, and Maverick Morgan scored 10 points and 7 rebounds.
But the shining star for Illinois was D.J. Williams, the freshman from Chicago Simeon, who's seen scant playing time this season, including some games where he didn't play at all.
Williams said being a role player helped his development.
“One of the best things about coming off the bench is you get to evaluate what the game needs,” said Williams. “We needed more energy, more guys attacking the glass. My number called, I know my role. Today, I think I did a great job of executing my role.”
Williams sparked a second half rally that saw Illinois cut a 20-point deficit in half. He finished with 8 points and 4 rebounds in fifteen minutes of play.
Williams said preparation was a major factor in his improvement.
“I’m doing a better job of preparing myself for games,” said Williams. “Coach always tells me, stay ready, stay ready. So today, I think my preparation was great. I’m being more consistent about what I do in practice, even off the court. “
Overall, Illini coach John Groce said his team has the right character, but the wrong mindset.
“I like them,” said Groce. “I can’t say that about every team I’ve coached. But --- although I like them, I’d like them to be a heck of a lot tougher when we get popped in the mouth. We’ve got to be a lot mentally tougher for the duration of games than what we are right now.”
Iowa out-rebounded the Illini 43-32, the tenth time in eleven Big Ten games that Illinois lost the rebounding battle. The Illini are now 11-13 overall this season, 3-8 in the Big Ten Conference. Iowa improves to 19-4, 10-1.
Watching from the stands was Illinois' lone signee for the 2016 recruiting class. Milwaukee-Washington point guard Te'Jon Lucas wore a hard cast on his right leg. He broke the foot in two places Saturday night during a game against Champaign Centennial at Parkland College.
It happened when Centennial's Julian Hess intentionally fouled Lucas during a fast break. Washington coach Freddie Riley said the game's officiating crew failed to set a tone to keep players in check.
"What if Te'Jon hadn’t signed with Illinois?” said Riley. “What if he was still being recruited? That might have cost him a chance at a scholarship. We start the playoffs next week. Now we have to do it without our best player."
Illinois' lone 2017 verbal commit, Belleville East's Javon Pickett, is also out with an injury. He has not played since hurting his right knee on January 29th.