CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Just over three minutes into the second half, Iowa’s Peter Jok stole the ball from Illinois guard Khalid Lewis and glided to the other end of the court for a two-handed dunk.
It was part of a 5-minute span after halftime in which the junior scored seven of the fifth-ranked Hawkeyes’ points, pushed their lead to 15 and delivered a blow the Illini wouldn’t recover from.
Jok finished with 23 points and Iowa (19-4, 10-1 Big Ten) coasted to a 77-65 victory.
Jok is playing with confidence, and doing that at both ends of the court, Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery said.
“I think you’re seeing a much more complete player,” McCaffery said. “You’re watching a guy who, when he was young, made some mistakes. And he’s not doing that anymore.”
Jok said Iowa, whose only serious tests Sunday came in the game’s opening minutes and the handful of times the Illini would later cut the lead to single digits, has grown up as a team.
“It’s because of our experience,” Jok said. “When teams are coming back, we don’t rush anything. We know what we have to do to win.”
The loss was the fifth in seven games for injury-plagued Illinois (11-13, 3-8).
“Defensively, what hurt us more than anything was their transition game and the rebounding,” Illini coach John Groce said.
Iowa outrebounded the Illini 43-32. Illinois has been outrebounded in 10 of its 11 conference games.
Jarrod Uthoff added 18 points and 12 rebounds for Iowa and Adam Woodbury had 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Jalen Coleman-Lands led Illinois with 17 points, going 5 of 11 from 3-point range.
Jok’s dominant spell to open the second half was the difference in a game that Illinois had been finding a way to stay in. And his confidence was visibly high.
Just under 5 minutes into the second half, he fired a low-trajectory 3-point attempt that somehow touched nothing but net. Jok flashed a big grin as he jogged back on defense and the Hawkeyes were up 53-38.
When Jok wasn’t scoring, he was providing. Moments later he missed a jumper and the ball bounced away from the rim with Illinois’ Malcolm Hill close behind it, scrambling for the rebound.
But Jok, laying on his back at the top of the key, found himself with the ball. Looking right, he saw Uthoff alone behind the 3-point line and fed him the ball.
Uthoff buried the shot and the Hawkeyes went up 56-38.
“That play in particular I think really crushed them,” Uthoff said. “It really took the air out of their sails.”
Iowa would push the lead to as many as 20 points midway through the half. Even when the Hawkeyes were off, it didn’t matter.
Illinois closed within 73-63 with 2:03 to play on a layup by Michael Finke. But the Illini could get no closer.
Hill finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
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