Illini Defense Suffocates Iowa in Carver-Hawkeye in Regular Season Finale

No. 12 Illinois leads nearly from start to finish in a 73-61 victory at Iowa to get its 14th victory in Big Ten Conference play in the regular season finale.

Matt Stevens, IlliniGuys Staff Writer

March 10, 2024

Illinois elected to bring its defense in the 243-mile road trip to Iowa City.

The No. 12 Illini held Iowa to its lowest point total of the 2023-24 season while containing their shooting to just 35.4 percent from the field and just seven three-pointers in a dominating 73-61 victory on Senior Night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Illinois (23-8, 14-6 in Big Ten Conference) ran out to a 17-2 run from the opening tip and led 21-4 at the Under-12 media timeout of the first half. Terrence Shannon Jr. had 18 of his game-high 25 points in the first half as the senior guard connected on 7 of his first 11 shots but also had three rebounds, two assists and two blocks in a 35-minute effort.

Iowa, which had posted wins in four of their last five games (including three Quad 1 wins in that span over then-No. 20 Wisconsin, at Michigan State and at Northwestern) got just two points out of senior guard Tony Perkins in his final home game as the Indianapolis native was held to 1 of 10 from the field and didn’t record a basket for the final 17 minutes and eight seconds of the game.

The Illinois defense, which came into Sunday ranked over 100 in KenPom.com’s efficiency numbers, jumped 25 spots in this category after this win. Iowa came into this regular season finale with a 83.8 scoring average, the highest of the Fran McCaffery era and would’ve been the highest by an Iowa team since 1988-89 (89.6 points per game).

Illinois’ defense allowed them to more than survive an evening where they made just 5 of 16 from three-point range and 12 of 20 from the free throw line.

The Illini are 16-1 this season when the opponent posts lower than a 45 percent shooting mark from the field and are 110-21 all-time under seven-year head coach Brad Underwood when that occurs.

Owen Freeman, who will likely be named the 2024 Big Ten Freshman of the Year selection, was negated by the excellent defensive play of the Illinois bigs including Coleman Hawkins, Quincy Guerrier and Dain Dainja. Freeman was held scoreless in a second half where he had just two field goal attempts in the final 13 minutes of action. Guerrier posted his ninth double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds but Sunday’s performance was his first double-digit rebound performance since Jan. 24 at Northwestern.

Dainja provided nine points and five rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench that included just one turnover and a complete defensive shutdown of Freeman in the lane.

Illinois finished the 2023-24 season with an 8-5 record away from State Farm Center joining Purdue as the only Big Ten teams with winning records in combined road and neutral games this season.

Illinois and Iowa will have an opportunity to see each other again in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament as the Illini earned the No. 2 seed in the event and Iowa will be the No. 7 seed. If the Hawkeyes can advance past its second-round matchup on Thursday evening, they’ll draw Illinois in a quarterfinal matchup at the Target Center in Minneapolis on Friday night for a 5:30 p.m. CST on Big Ten Network.

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