IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Orange Krush did not get justice for what went down this past week.
Not only was Saturday afternoon’s matchup at Carver Hawkeye Arena big for conference standings, but after all the drama revolving around the Orange Krush and the Iowa athletics department, this one felt that much more important.
The winner of this one would have the tiebreaker over the other — and behind incredible play from Tony Perkins and a late three-pointer from Payton Sandfort when the game was tied — that team was Iowa, taking the 81-79 win.
Perkins missed a free throw with about 10 seconds left (the first he missed all game) and Illinois had one last attempt to tie it up. Jayden Epps attempted a corner three that was tipped, Coleman Hawkins got the rebound, went to the free throw line, purposely missed the second to try and get a tip in, but Iowa got the rebound and sealed the win.
“Really good college basketball game, two teams that played awfully hard and fought awfully hard,” said head coach Brad Underwood. “My hats off to them, they made a few plays and obviously a lot of free throws.”
Illinois (16-7, 7-5 Big Ten) nearly did everything right to beat Iowa, but when you give up 80 or more points to this type of team, you’re probably not going to come out on top.
“We just weren’t disciplined enough on the defensive side,” Underwood said.
While the game started in unfamiliar fashion for the Illini — who usually start off very slow in the first half — Iowa (15-8, 7-5 Big Ten) is not known for its defensive play. This is a team that has let up 80+ points in games and still won.
It's not like the Illini didn't play well. In fact, this will probably go down as one of the better offensive performances of the season. They shot just under 50% from the field, over 30% from three, and shot over 75% from the free throw line.
But it was the Tony Perkins show. The Iowa guard shot 16 free throws and made 15.
“The fouling got [Perkins] in the rhythm. It’s not the shots he made the fouling got him in the rhythm,” Underwood said. “To his credit he made them and he was terrific today.”
Perkins also went 8-of-11 from the field and finished with a career-high 32 points. Forward Kris Murray finished with 19 points and was the Hawkeyes’ second-leading scorer.
“If Perkins makes all those twos, great, I’m happy with that,” Underwood said. “He had 25 in the second half, nobody else did anything.”
Epps, Matthew Mayer and Dain Dainja combined for 54 points, but it was not enough to get a big road win. Although it didn’t go Illinois’ way, Underwood still appreciates how well Epps played in a big road environment.
“By far his best game of his career,” Underwood said. “He carried us.”
Illinois now sits at third in the conference tied with Iowa with eight games to go.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
SANDFORT THREE: With the game tied at 76 and Illinois having some momentum after just tying the game, Iowa forward Payton Sandfort hit the game’s biggest shot. Illinois never tied it up again.
BUZZER BEATER: Iowa forward Kris Murray drilled a three-pointer with a hand right in his face as time expired in the first half. After that shot, Iowa finished 5-of-9 from behind the arc in the half.
MATTH3W MAY3R: He played much better in comparison to Tuesday night against Nebraska. In the first half, Illinois only hit four three pointers and Mayer hit three of the four. He was a big reason for the one-point halftime lead and would finish the game 4-6 from behind the arc.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Mayer was on FIRE in the first half.
Matthew Mayer is on fire to start off today.— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 4, 2023
He's hit 6 of his first 7 shots.@MatthewMayer24 x @IlliniMBB pic.twitter.com/6WRayJ32qt
- Illinois drops to 89-77 all time against Iowa, including now being 23-57 in Iowa City.
- Iowa broke a five-game losing streak to Illinois.
- This was only the second loss of the season for Illinois when leading at halftime.
TWEET OF THE GAME
Just this whole chain.
This place is funny looking from the outside pic.twitter.com/TU7xE2G3i7— Will Charlton (@WillCharltonH13) February 4, 2023
Yeah, looks like a botanical center instead of a basketball gym.— Drew Pastorek (@kerotsap) February 4, 2023
Illinois will attempt to bounce back on Tuesday night looking for a season sweep of Minnesota.
Tipoff against the Gophers will be at 7:30 p.m. CT and televised on BTN.