B1G Champs! 20th Ranked Illini Hold Off Iowa To Cap Wild Final Day

IlliniGuys Staff

March 6, 2022

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Kofi Cockburn scored 21 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and the Illinois defense clamped down late as the 20th ranked Illini defeated #24 Iowa 74-72 to clinch a share of their first Big Ten regular season championship since 2005.

Illinois (21-8, 15-5) finish league play tied with 10th ranked Wisconsin atop the conference standings, but will get the #1 seed in this week's Big Ten tournament due to their victory over the Badgers last month in the only meeting between the two teams.

Wisconsin had the edge entering the final weekend of the regular season, but were shocked by last-place Nebraska earlier in the day 74-73 and that opened the door for the Illini.

Alfonso Plummer scored 15 points and Andre Curbelo added 14 off the bench before fouling out late in the game.

Iowa (22-9, 12-8) came into the game as one of the hottest teams in the country, but sees its 5-game win streak end and their bid to grab the #4 seed and double-bye in this week's tourney in Indianapolis.  The Hawkeyes settle for the 5-seed and will play the winner of the Northwestern-Nebraska game Thursday afternoon.

Illinois was without starting forward Jacob Grandison, who was in street clothes and with his left arm in a sling as he took part in Senior Night festivities before the game.  Grandison suffered a shoulder injury in the 2nd half of Thursday's win over Penn State.  Coleman Hawkins took his place in the lineup for his first start since the Arizona game and responded with nine points and eleven rebounds.

The Hawkeyes looked determined to play spoiler in the first half, going on a 13-0 run to take a 32-19 lead.  Iowa hit 60% of its shots from the field and threatened to run away from their hosts.  But the Illini closed the half on a 9-0 run to pull within 43-37 at halftime.

That late run seemed to set the tone for the second half.  Iowa continued its cold shooting, missing 12 of 13 shots during the run that straddled halftime as the Illini pulled off a 19-3 rally to take their first lead since early in the game.  Iowa rallied, but it was short-lived as the Hawkeyes managed just two field goals in the final 9:00 of the game.  Iowa also missed ten free throws in the second half to create the opportunity for Illinois to get the win.

Keegan Murray scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed eleven rebounds for Iowa while Tony Perkins scored 17.

Both teams now head to Indianapolis, where the Illini will seek their first ever repeat Big Ten tournament championship.  They'll face either Michigan or Indiana Friday morning.  Iowa goes in as the 5-seed and will play either Northwestern or Nebraska in their tournament opener on Thursday.

Stay with IlliniGuys for complete postgame coverage and analysis.

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