After-thoughts from Iowa’s 76-64 loss to Illinois:
--After falling behind by an 8-0 score three times in the first seven Big Ten games, including the previous two games, you just knew Iowa was going to come out determined not to dig itself another big hole Thursday. The Hawkeyes absolutely wouldn’t let that happen again, right? Then they let it happen again. This time it actually was 10-0. The game felt over at that point and it probably was.
--Peter Jok actually looked a little more like himself at the end of the game, hitting his only 3-pointer in the final minute. For much of the contest, he seemed to again really be feeling the effects of a bad back. He got picked clean for a steal and easy layup by Malcolm Hill late in the first half and another time went up for a shot and just lost the ball. Big Ten Network analyst Seth Davis compared it to the film “Space Jam,’’ where a bunch of NBA superstars inexplicably lose all their powers at some point. A few times Davis said he thought the Hawkeyes would be better off with Jok on the bench, and it was hard to argue.
--It would be an absolute stunner if there isn’t some change in Iowa’s starting lineup Saturday against Ohio State. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery showed how pleased he is with his current starters when he put four reserves on the court to open the second half. Isaiah Moss played only six minutes and did absolutely nothing. Cordell Pemsl played only 11 minutes and had a few good moments at the offensive end but a lot of bad ones on defense. Tyler Cook played 17 minutes and had more turnovers (4) than rebounds (3). Any of those three could find themselves demoted in favor of Ahmad Wagner, Nicholas Baer or others.
--For the second straight game, Wagner and Baer may have been the two best players on the court for the Hawkeyes. Each of them had 12 points and they played with more energy at the defensive end than anyone on the team. Baer played 30 minutes and had a team-high seven rebounds and a couple of blocked shots.
--McCaffery was desperate enough for answers that he used every scholarship player on his roster at some point in the game. He even threw seldom-used Maishe Dailey into the action in the first half. He wasn’t great but he was better than Moss.
--The Hawkeyes were only 7 for 16 at the free throw line but a big part of that is which players were getting to the line. Jok got there only three times and none of Iowa’s good foul shooters got there at all. Christian Williams was 1 for 5, Wagner 2 for 5.
--Illinois, which snapped a three-game losing streak, is probably fortunate it wasn’t playing a better, healthier team. The Illini shot very well in building a 16-point halftime margin, then played very poorly in the second half. Had Jok and Jordan Bohannon been 100 percent, the final outcome might have been much different.