IOWA 83, ILLINOIS 62: BOMBS AWAY (AGAIN)

By Adam Jacobi on March 14, 2019 at 11:36 pm
Tyler Cook is a proud yelling man

© David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

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This is not a rerun: Iowa incinerated Illinois from 3-point range.

Iowa went berserk from three-point range and blew open a close game in the second half, beating Illinois 83-62 in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament late Thursday night. Nicholas Baer led all scorers with 17 points, thanks to a 5-for-6 shooting night from deep, and Joe Wieskamp added 13 points in a solid all-around performance in the win. 

All told, Iowa shot 12-for-23 from deep in the victory, which wasn't quite as good as the 15-for-21 show the Hawkeyes put on at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in January but was still good enough to make quick work of the hapless Illini.  

Aside from the perimeter shooting, Tyler Cook made a triumphant return to being the most important player on the floor for the Hawkeyes. Cook logged 12 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists—2nd best on the team behind Connor McCaffery's 8—and when he was scoring, he was scoring LOUD. 

This is what Cook does best: abusing defenders one-on-one and making the most of his opportunities at (or moving toward) the basket. He has exceptional footwork and quickness, and we've known his explosiveness is elite. Cook struggled away from the basket and making tough interior passes tonight, and that's not unusual. He has certainly grown as a player over his three seasons, and that's not to be discounted, but at some point you gotta play the hits, y'know?

Still: Cook's assists helped blow the game open. Iowa's team defense is still bad enough (Illinois shot 52% tonight!) that its offense has to be elite, and it's not that unless Cook is distributing with ease. The Hawkeyes took exceptional advantage of Illinois collapsing on Cook's forays into the interior by having him find some wide-open guards, and they rewarded his passing by hitting the open shots he created.  

What's frustrating about a performance like this is that this is the Iowa basketball we had known was possible. This is the team that pounded Michigan and Iowa State, that planted the Tigerhawk flag in the middle of Madison Square Garden in the middle of November and told the world that last season wasn't happening again. The ability has ALWAYS been there. It was there recently. Here it is; it's still around.

And speaking of Michigan, the Wolverines loom tomorrow, fresher than a pair of Jordans still in the box and eager for revenge after Iowa beat their hindparts up and down the Carver floor in February. A neutral-floor victory and a two-game sweep over the mighty Wolverines would go a long way in rehabilitating the Hawkeyes' image with the tournament committee—maybe even taking them out of the 8-9 doldrums that probably end in getting fed to Zion Williamson or the like.

That's the season in a nutshell, though, isn't it? We know they can; let's see if they will.

GO IOWA AWESOME.

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