Rebounding once again hurts Iowa as they fall to Illinois in their Big Ten home opener 87-83
By Dallas Jones
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Coming into the game, the Illini had a clear size advantage. The rebound battle, or lack thereof, decided the game tonight for the Hawkeyes.
After being out rebounded by 12 in their last appearance at Purdue, the Illini had a staggering 29 more rebounds than the Hawkeyes tonight.
“This rebounding line is unacceptable,” Coach Fran McCaffery said “I mean I have been coaching for years and I have never seen anything like it. It’s just absolutely unacceptable.”
The Hawkeye defense stayed in a zone for most of the game, which can make it more difficult to rebound because of long rebounds and not having an assigned man.
One of the main reasons the Hawkeyes stuck with a zone, was to slow down Center Kofi Cockburn. During the first half, that plan was executed to perfection it seemed. Cockburn had just three points and five rebounds at the break.
He followed that up with a dominating second half. Putting up 14 second half points and grabbing 13 rebounds to himself. Finshing the game with 18, five more than Iowa’s entire starting five.
There was a bright spot to the Hawkeyes close loss, the second unit. Led by the continued emersion of second year guards Tony Perkins and Ahron Ulis.
Tony Perkins and Ahron Ulis entered the game and sparked a 21-2 run, their energy off the bench on both ends this year has given the Hawkeye the depth they desperately need. In the first half, Iowa’s bench outscored its starters 24 to 12.
“It shows that we got heart. All of us got heart to fight and know that the game is never over,” said Sophmore Tony Perkins, “Trying to fight from behind gets old, but if thats what you gotta do to win sometimes, then thats what you got to do.”
Perkins finished with 16 points and three steals, while Ulis had 11 points and added seven assists. The improved play by the young guards has earned them more playing time as well.
“I know him as well as he knows me,” Perkins said about his relationship with Ulis, “We look for everyone out there, but we know each others spots, we workout together. We’ve formed a brotherhood.”
Ulis and Perkins both played around 24 minutes tonight, outpacing starting guards Jordan Bohannon and Joe Toussaint by about eight minutes each.
It is never a bad thing to have an array of guards at your disposal, so we will have to wait and see how the guard rotations change as the season progresses.
Starting the season 0-2 in the Big Ten is never ideal, but this young Iowa team has shown they can compete with the top of their conference and the country.
While they lost their first rivalry matchup of the year against the Illini, the Hawkeyes biggest rivalry comes Thursday night when they face off against the 8-0 Cyclones.
For many of the Hawkeyes, it is a rivalry they have been paying close attention to their whole life.
“It’s fun, obvoiusly growing up I have watched a lot of Iowa/Iowa State games,” said Cedar Rapids native Keegan Murray, “The environment is going to be really fun to play in. I am ready for the challenge.”
They will take on the Cyclones in Ames at 8 o’clock pm Thursday night.