This weekend Illinois followed this year's trend to a T, lose on Friday and win on Sunday. After an overtime loss at Wisconsin Friday, the Illini rebounded to defeat Iowa, 86-73 in Champaign. This season the Illini are 2-6 on Friday and now 8-1 on Sunday.
In the process, the Illini took care of an old nemesis, Iowa, who had beaten Illinois 28 of its last 30 meetings. Illinois also clinches third-place in the Big Ten outright, finishing 10-6 in conference to go along with a 16-10 overall record. Iowa finishes eighth in the conference at 7-9 to go along with a 12-14 mark in all games.
Illinois built a 54-31 halftime lead, thanks to 14 first-half points from Susan Blauser and Melissa Parker. Parker was 4 of 5 from three-point range to give her 60 treys for the season, moving into second on the school's single-season three-point list.
Blauser had her fifth double-double of the season -- 16 points and 11 rebounds. Parker led five Illini players in double figures with 23 points. Senior Alicia Sheeler, playing in her final game at Assembly Hall, had 15 points followed by 14 from Allison Curtin and 12 from Tauja Catchings.
Iowa freshman Lindsey Meder put on a second-half show and finished with a game-high 25 points, helping Iowa close the gap to 13 at the final buzzer. Cara Consuegra added 17 points, while Amy Herrig countered with her Big Ten-leading 16th double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Illinois exploded to leads of 11-2 and 16-4. Meder and Herrig scored six and five points, respectively, as Iowa cut the gap to 26-17. That's when the Illini turned its three-point weapon --Parker. The junior from Elgin hit three triples within three minutes, including two on successive possessions to extend the lead back to 15. The inside play of Blauser, Catchings and reserve Dawn Vana accounted for the rest of the Illini points in the half.
It looked as if Iowa might inch back in it, cutting the gap to 60-46 six minutes into the second half, but an 11-5 Illini run helped extend the advantage to 71-51. The lead reached as many as 24 points at 77-53, before Iowa cut the margin to 13 points with four three-pointers in the final seven minutes.
Illinois opens Big Ten Tournament play Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. against the winner of the Michigan-Minnesota match-up.