Illinois was happy to have Kendall Gill back in the lineup after a six-week absence due to a broken foot.
Iowa Coach Tom Davis wasn’t so pleased.
Gill ignited a decisive first-half run that carried the fourth-ranked Illini to a 118-94 Big Ten Conference victory over the No. 15 Hawkeyes Wednesday night at Champaign, Ill.
“He is one more dimension for a team that was already playing very well,” said Davis, whose team absorbed its worst defeat in his three seasons with the Hawkeyes.
“We’re not playing that badly. Illinois deserves a lot of credit.”
Illinois (26-4 overall, 13-4 in the Big Ten) kept alive its conference title hopes. If Big Ten leader Indiana loses to Wisconsin tonight and to Minnesota Saturday, the Illini can tie for the title by beating Michigan Saturday.
Iowa (21-9, 9-8) had a 20-10 lead after seven minutes, but Illinois pulled even, 33-33, with 3:45 left in the half, before Gill led a 15-2 surge that put the Illini in command.
“The first 10 minutes, I was beginning to wonder how badly we’d get beat,” Illinois Coach Lou Henson said.
“I’m sure Kendall had a lot to do with the victory. We’re a much better ballclub with him. I think he’s getting close to where he was before the injury.”
Gill, sidelined since breaking his foot Jan. 22, did not start and missed his first two shots coming off the bench. But he snapped the game’s final tie with a three-point shot, then followed with a basket and a free throw.
Seniors Lowell Hamilton and Kenny Battle, playing their final game at Assembly Hall, contributed 24 and 21 points for the Illini. Gill had 15 points, plus two rebounds, four assists and two steals in 25 minutes.
Marcus Liberty added 12 points, and Steve Bardo had 11 for the Illini.
Roy Marble scored 37 points for Iowa, and Ed Horton added 21.
Notre Dame 67, Marquette 63--Jamere Jackson hit a go-ahead jumper with 48 seconds remaining, and Keith Robinson made two free throws with three seconds left as the Irish rallied in the final two minutes to beat the Warriors at Milwaukee.
The victory gave Notre Dame (20-7) its sixth consecutive season with at least 20 wins and strengthened the Irish’s bid for an NCAA tournament berth. It was Notre Dame’s 12th straight defeat of Marquette.
The Warriors (13-15) finished their second straight losing season, the first time that has happened in 24 years. They had a chance to pull even with eight seconds left when Trevor Jackson was fouled, but he missed the first in a one-and-one situation.
The Warriors took a 59-56 lead on Tony Smith’s two free throws with 4:07 left, but Notre Dame got even, 63-63, on Jackson’s two free throws with 1:58 remaining.
Jackson untied the score with his basket 70 seconds later.
Joe Fredrick scored 20 points for the Irish, and Powell had 19 for Marquette.
Minnesota 77, Michigan State 61--Willie Burton scored 22 points, and the Gophers kept their NCAA tournament hopes alive by downing the Spartans in a Big Ten game at Minneapolis.
The Gophers (16-11, 8-9), who have beaten several top teams at home this season, need a victory at Ohio State Saturday to strengthen their bid.
Burton scored seven points in a 17-4 run that gave Minnesota a 60-40 lead.
Steve Smith scored 20 points for Michigan State (14-13, 5-11).
Utah 70, San Diego State 57--Freshman Josh Grant scored 19 points and had six steals to lead the Utes past the Aztecs in the first round at Salt Lake City.
Mitch Smith added 15 points and 10 rebounds for Utah (16-16), which plays WAC regular-season champion Colorado State in tonight’s quarterfinals.
Tony Ross scored 14 points, while Mitch McMullen and Shawn Bell each added 13 for San Diego State (12-17), which made 22 turnovers.
SW Missouri State 73, Illinois Chicago 67--Hubert Henderson scored 27 points as the Bears earned their third straight NCAA tournament berth by defeating the Flames in the championship game of the Association of Mid-Continent Universities tournament at Springfield, Mo.
Henderson, a 6-foot 10-inch senior forward, who hit all three of his three-point shots, was named the tournament’s most valuable player. Henderson’s third three-pointer broke a 50-50 tie and put the Bears ahead for good.
Kelby Stuckey added 18 points for Southwest Missouri State (21-9), which also won the conference’s regular-season championship.
Darren Guest scored 16 points for Illinois Chicago (13-17), which finished last in the conference, but upset Northern Iowa and Eastern Illinois to reach the tournament final.
McNeese State 85, North Texas 68--Anthony Pullard scored 15 of his 24 points in the second half, and the Cowboys earned their first NCAA tournament berth by winning the championship game at Denton, Tex.
Tournament MVP Michael Cutright added 23 points for McNeese State (16-13), which finished in second place behind North Texas in the regular season, but upset the Eagles on their home court in the final.
Ricky Robertson scored 15 points for North Texas (14-15), but Deon Hunter, the Southland Conference player of the year, was held to eight points, none in the first half.