5 huge observations from the Illinois basketball win over Iowa

Illinois basketball needed some momentum entering the Big Ten Tournament, and a quick start against Iowa did the trick, as this led to a big road Big Ten win.
Mar 10, 2024; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood reacts with
Mar 10, 2024; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood reacts with / Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
1 of 5

Illinois basketball went into Iowa City and came out with a big road victory.

The Illini could have mailed this game in. We weren't playing for anything besides better NCAA tournament seeding. The No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament was locked in, so it could have been a sloppy game for Illinois.

It wasn't a sloppy game, though. Illinois came out and threw punches. While Iowa responded, the Illini defense showed up and our offense looked solid. The Hawkeyes couldn't handle what we brought to the table, and it resulted in a 73-61 win for Illinois.

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

1. Hello, defense, my old friend

I’ve mentioned quite a few times that I remember the days Illinois used to play defense. The 2000’s teams had some pretty special defensive units, and even into the 2010s, Illinois was a solid defensive team.

Entering the game on Sunday night, Illinois had been playing some of the worst defense I have ever seen the program play in my lifetime. We were letting teams just score at will, and the only defense we had was a better offense.

Illinois was, shockingly, able to hold Purdue to under 80 points, as they notched 77 points in a win over us. Before that game, the Illini had given up at least 80 points in seven out of the past eight games. It was an ugly sight.

Sunday night was different. Illinois came out of the gates against Iowa with a different energy. We focused on playing defense, and it worked. Iowa scored their first point five minutes into the game.

The 61 points Illinois allowed against Iowa were the fewest points allowed since we gave up 57 points to Colgate back before Christmas on December 17.

Every facet of the Illinois defense looked good too. We rotated well on the perimeter, allowing Iowa to shoot 7-of-21, 33.3%, from three-point range. The Hawkeyes couldn’t get anything going inside either. Illinois’ defense swarmed any Iowa player who got the ball in the paint.

The defensive effort I saw on Sunday night was different. I hadn’t seen this type of effort in a long time. If Illinois can turn on the defense in the NCAA tournament, we could be a very dangerous team.

Illinois has the Big 10 tournament ahead and you can claim a $200 bonus from FanDuel Sportsbook if the Illini win any game! Just sign up, deposit at least $10 and bet $5 or more on Illinois to win any game and you'll get $200 in bonus bets if they pull it off. Even if the Illini are a huge favorite, you'll get your bonus. Sign up for FanDuel now!