After-thoughts from Iowa’s 83-62 victory over Illinois:
--You could see the intensity and determination in Iowa’s players during pregame warmups and introductions. They just looked like a team on a mission and they played that way. The defensive intensity never wavered and the offensive ball movement was as good as it’s been all season.
--Iowa had 25 assists on 31 made field goals and in the second half it had 16 assists on 18 field goals with only one turnover against a team that pressures you constantly. There’s just something about Illinois’ style of play that brings out the best in the Hawkeyes. In the previous meeting between the two teams — a 95-71 Iowa win — the Hawkeyes had 29 assists on 34 field goals. In those two games, they made 27 of 44 attempts from 3-point range. That’s 61.4 percent.
--Nicholas Baer said he felt as though he had one of the best games of his college career as he made 5 of 6 3-point attempts and equaled his season high with 17 points. Three of his 3-pointers came during a 23-5 scoring run that put the game away in the second half. And, as always, Baer did all sorts of little things on defense and on the boards.
--Another Iowa player who got back to playing the way he can was Tyler Cook. His 12 points and five rebounds are both below his season averages, but he was a major force inside with three resounding dunks and a couple of putbacks. He also recorded six assists, matching his season high.
--In retrospect, the Hawkeyes’ 93-91 overtime loss at Nebraska on Sunday doesn’t look quite so bad. They played well offensively and nearly won the game, and obviously the Cornhuskers aren’t such an awful opponent right now. They have come into this tournament and clawed out two tough victories, over Rutgers and Maryland.
--Just as important as what the Hawkeyes did was something they didn’t do. After committing 67 fouls in the previous three games, they were called for a season-low nine fouls Thursday. Illinois never got into the bonus and shot only four free throws in the contest.
--It’s probably too much to ask, but if the Hawkeyes play as well Friday night as they did Thursday, they’ll beat No. 3 seed Michigan. As it is, it should be a good battle. The Wolverines haven’t been overwhelming down the stretch, winning six of their last 10 games. Senior forward Charles Matthews has not played in the past three games because of an ankle injury although it sounds as though there is a good chance he will be back for this game. The Hawkeyes may have played their best game of the regular season in a 74-59 victory over Michigan on Feb. 1.
--The Iowa-Illinois game easily had the liveliest atmosphere of any of the four games played at the United Center on Thursday. The Illini obviously had a big following in the building and it appeared Iowa brought as many fans as any of the other teams. When the Hawkeyes were pulling away in the second half, chants of “Let’s go, Hawks’’ reverberated through the arena.