5 big observations from the Illinois basketball win over Iowa

It wasn't an easy road to the win, but the Illinois basketball team managed to pull together to protect homecourt.
Iowa v Illinois
Iowa v Illinois / Michael Hickey/GettyImages
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After a horrible loss to Penn State, the Illinois basketball team needed to come out on Saturday and get a big win.

The win happened for the Illini, as we were able to take down the Iowa Hawkeyes. But was this the type of win that eased the worries of the Illinois fanbase?

A win is a win, and that is the most important thing right now. Illinois was able to notch the 20th win of the season for the program. The NCAA tournament is a near lock as well.

But Illinois was up and down for the majority of the game against Iowa. This was a tied contest with less than six minutes left, but thankfully, the Illini were able to take down the Hawkeyes 95-85.

Here are five big observations from the Illinois basketball win over Iowa

1. Niccolo Moretti saved the Illinois basketball team

Illinois hasn’t played Niccolo Moretti much this season. Coming into the game on Saturday, he had played in seven games during the 2023-24 campaign.

Some of the lack of playing time had to do with injury, as Moretti has been plagued with the injury bug this season. But there is also the fact he is a freshman.

For some reason, Brad Underwood has not wanted to play freshmen. The lack of freshman playing time has really hurt this team, as Illinois needs quality depth entering the postseason. But on Saturday, we needed the freshmen, which included Moretti.

Moretti didn’t get a chance to play in the first half, but he saved the day in the second half. Iowa came out of the halftime locker room and took control of this game. They scored the first five points out of the half, and that is when Moretti was subbed into the game.

Immediately, Moretti's presence was felt. He assisted on a bucket by Justin Harmon to narrow the deficit to two points. But Moretti’s presence wasn’t just felt as a ball-distributor. He did everything on the court.

Just the energy that Moretti brought to the game was phenomenal. If that is all he did for the Illini, his minutes would be worth it. Thankfully, he put his scoring abilities on display against Iowa.

Illinois was down 66-61, and we needed points. Who would have thought Moretti was coming to the rescue? The talented guard hit a corner three-point attempt to narrow the margin back to two points. He continued his tear and hit another three-pointer just moments later to take the lead 67-66. A few minutes later, Moretti tallied two free throws.

The impact Moretti had on the game was incredible. I don’t know if Illinois comes away with a victory if he doesn’t play. Moretti finished with nine points, two rebounds, and one assist while shooting 2-of-3 from the field and 2-of-2 from three-point range.

Moretti’s playing time probably should have started well before the game on Saturday, but at least he got a chance to show his worth on the court. Let’s see more playing time for this young point guard.