INDIANAPOLIS — Iowa hopes its Big Ten Conference Tournament opener goes as well as Super Bowl Sunday did.
That’s when the Hawkeyes stormed into the State Farm Center and dismantled Illinois 77-65 in a game that wasn’t that close. The 12th-seeded Illini (14-18) get another crack at Iowa at about 1:25 p.m. Thursday after thumping short-handed Minnesota 85-52 on Wednesday afternoon.
On Feb. 7, Iowa played a well-rounded game, especially on the glass. The Hawkeyes' 43-32 rebounding margin was their largest of the season. Adam Woodbury raked in 14 rebounds that afternoon, and Jarrod Uthoff 12.
Fifth-seeded Iowa (21-9) will again need to use its size advantage to diffuse an Illini team with good guard play. Malcolm Hill was a second-team all-Big Ten pick who had 39 points in a regular-season-ending loss at Penn State. Kendrick Nunn averages 15.6 a game.
“They’re a tough team. They’ve got good guard play, a couple posts. They can stretch the floor,” Uthoff said. “The biggest thing is, they’re scrappy.”
In the first meeting, Iowa’s Peter Jok pumped in 23 points. But Jok has been off in Iowa’s last three games — the second-team all-Big Ten choice is averaging just 10.0 points a game (below his season average of 16.3) and shooting 28.9 percent from the floor (11-for-38).
THURSDAY’S BIG TEN TOURNEY OPENER
WHO: Iowa (21-9) vs. Illinois (14-18)
WHERE: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
TIME/TV: About 1:25 p.m., Big Ten Network (Announcers: Kevin Kugler, Jon Crispin)
RADIO: WHO-AM (1040) in Des Moines, KXIC-AM (800) in Iowa City and the Hawkeye network; Sirius/XM Channel 84.
WINNER MEETS: No. 4 seed Purdue (24-7) at about1:25 p.m. Friday
NOTES: With 180 rebounds in 18 Big Ten games (10.0), Adam Woodbury became the first Hawkeye to average double figures in boards in conference play since 2001-02 (Reggie Evans, 10.7). … Guard Mike Gesell recorded his fifth game this season with 10-plus assists at Michigan (11). That is believed to be a school record. He needs eight assists to break Iowa’s single-season record of 193 held by Andre Woolridge. … No. 5 seeds have an 11-18 all-time record at the Big Ten Tournament.