IOWA CITY, Iowa (WCIA) — Illinois (16-7, 7-5) sent Iowa (15-8, 7-5) to the foul line 23 times in the second half where the Hawkeyes made 21 of them, enough to separate the two sides as the Illini fall on the road 81-79.
Illinois took a one point lead into halftime after Kris Murray made a three-pointer at the buzzer. For most of the opening period, Illinois rode the hot hand of Matthew Mayer who had 15 points but had to sit the final five minutes with two fouls.
“Weren’t disciplined enough to win this game on the road and that’s something I thought we’d managed to conquer, but obviously it reared it’s ugly head today,” Brad Underwood said.
“That’s the kind of stuff that’s costing us right now because when we play defense solid and don’t foul I think we’re the best defense in the country, and stats show that too, so we just got to clean that up.” Mayer said.
“Just felt like we had to get going some way and we started running sets, we started getting movement, the ball started moving more and we got going, but I just felt like we lost our principle on the defensive end,” Epps said. “That’s the end we were focusing on and we made a few mistakes and that’s what lost us this game.”
Jayden Epps picked up the scoring in the second half in his first trip to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, scoring 14 of his 16 after the break. But the Illini continued to find themselves in foul trouble with the Hawkeyes getting continued looks at free throw line. Terrence Shannon Jr. fouled out, while Mayer, Ty Rodgers, and Dain Dainja each racked up four fouls in the game.
“[Epps is] really good. Jayden’s a rock star,” Underwood said. “He carried us in spots in the second half. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better freshman guard. Not just in this league, but in the country.”
Illinois falls into a tie for third place in the Big Ten with Iowa, as this is the Hawkeyes first win in the series in six tries.