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No. 18 Iowa snaps No. 19 Illinois' 7-game win streak
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No. 18 Iowa snaps No. 19 Illinois' 7-game win streak

Illinois Iowa Basketball

Illinois center Kofi Cockburn (21) drives to the basket past Iowa center Luka Garza (55) during the first half on Sunday at Iowa City.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The chances were there for No. 19 Illinois to extend a winning streak and take a one-game lead in the Big Ten.

But the Illini missed shots and turned the ball over twice in the final 3:17 of the game, and No. 18 Iowa closed the game on an 11-3 run to snap Illinois' seven-game winning streak with a 72-65 win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday afternoon in what was a rock fight for most of the game. Illinois is still tied for first place in the Big Ten.

Illinois (16-6, 8-3) led by four points with 5:28 left in the game after Andres Feliz, who led Illinois with 17 points, ripped the ball out of the hands of two Iowa defenders, got an offensive rebound and a put back.

Illini head coach Brad Underwood called a timeout, saying he knew the play Iowa would run and thought his team was too deep in its pick-and-roll coverage. Iowa (16-6, 7-4) freshman CJ Fredrick hit both ends of a one-and-one to get the lead back to two points, 59-57, with 5:18 to go. Giorgi Bezhanishvili turned the ball over on an inbounds pass that led to two more free throws from Fredrick to tie the game.

From there, Iowa outscored Illinois 13-5 to close out the game to snap Illinois' win streak.

"We have the one casual play we had all night," Underwood said referencing Bezhanishvili's turnover. "Against the press and we throw it to them and a four-point game switches. You can't be casual in a war, in a battle on the road in the Big Ten. To their credit, they made the plays. I thought Fredrick was terrific, made big plays. It's going to be a pain in the (butt) to see him the next four years."

Fredrick scored 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting, but Illinois struggled to contain Iowa (16-6, 7-4) National Player of the Year candidate Luka Garza, who rolled off 11 quick points near the end of the first half and had a dagger 3-pointer with 38 seconds left to turn a four-point lead into a seven-point lead. Garza finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

“We’ve got to learn from this experience, go back in practice and stay together," Feliz said. "We’re fine. There’s nothing we can do right now but learn. We have to take this opportunity, learn from it and come back on the winning side of the streak."

After the game, emotions spilled into the handshake line, where players and coaches had a verbal spat before going to the locker room. Following the game, both Illinois and Iowa coaches and players downplayed it.

Underwood was happy with the way his team handled the physicality of the game, which included 34 personal fouls.

"We have been fortunate; we have been able to get on a nice run and win in some hostile environments," Underwood said. "This is what we're bred for. This is what we're trying to be about. We haven't been about this for the last two years. There has been a softness and we've been the pushover. Not doing that anymore. I don't know what happened at the end of the game, I think that's probably more words than anything else."

Feliz nearly willed Illinois down the stretch to a win. It's his third straight game of scoring at least 15 points. He drove to the hoop, hit 3-pointers, floaters and had his big offensive rebound and put back.

"I'll play that highlight forever," Underwood said.

For his part, Feliz didn't seem deterred by Illinois' Big Ten-best winning streak being snapped.

“It was a tough game — especially here at their place," Underwood said. "We’ve just got to stick together on the defensive side and the offensive side as well and we’re going to be fine. I know my team. I’ve been through it all. I know we’re going to be fine. We’re going to get back in that winning streak."

Feliz hit a 3-pointer with 4:03 left to give Illinois a 62-61 lead. That's when Underwood called a timeout to adjust his defense in pick-and-roll situations. Iowa responded with a 3-pointer from Connor McCaffery, a pull-up jumper from Fredrick and Garza's 3-pointer to seal the game. Scattered between those was a turnover from Illinois guard Trent Frazier, who stepped out of bounds, and a turnover from freshman Kofi Cockburn, who lost the ball as he barreled down the lane for a shot at the rim.

Sunday's game was a chance for Illinois to take a one-game lead in the Big Ten after Michigan State lost on Saturday to Wisconsin. Still, Illinois will wake up on Monday tied for first place in the conference and in the thick of a conference championship race.

“Learning experience,' Frazier said. "Great environment. Coach told us they were going to be hungry dogs. We’re at the top of the Big Ten, obviously, so we’re that team coming in every arena that everyone wants to beat now. We’ve got to keep that in mind and come in here and try to match everyone’s energy and fight."


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Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25


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