IOWA CITY, Iowa (Ticker) -- Freshman point guard Jeff Horner collected 16 points and a season-high 11 rebounds as Iowa surprised eighth-ranked Illinois, 68-61, to forge an unlikely tie atop the Big Ten Conference.
The Hawkeyes (11-3, 3-0 Big Ten) never trailed as they remained one of three unbeaten teams in league play. They are tied with Michigan for first place.
"We have to keep getting better," Iowa coach Steve Alford said. "We have a week to prepare (for Wisconsin) and get some rest. This team loves to practice and it makes my job fun. We might start to get some national attention, but I hope our demeanor won't change."
Brody Boyd added 13 points off the bench and Chauncey Leslie chipped in 11 for Iowa, which defeated Illinois for just the second time in the last six meetings.
"Playing Tulsa and Missouri in our preseason schedule has definitely helped us," said Alford, whose team is 3-1 against nationally ranked opponents. "Even though we lost to Missouri, I thought we played well. It helped us prepare for the Big Ten season."
Brian Cook led all scorers with 20 points, but the Fighting Illini (12-2, 2-1) had a four-game winning streak snapped.
"Iowa is known for wrestling and in wrestling, it's much easier when you're on top," Illinois coach Bill Self said. "They were getting riding time and we were struggling. If there was an energy contest, Iowa probably won."
The Hawkeyes raced to a 13-5 lead 7 1/2 minutes into the game as Leslie and Sean Sonderleiter each scored four points.
But the Illini fought back and tied it at 27-27 on a pair of free throws by Cook with 3:31 to go in the first half. Boyd answered with a 3-pointer from the right corner to spark an 8-4 close the half and give Iowa a 35-31 lead at intermission.
Illinois got within 38-37 four minutes into the second half on a layup by freshman James Augustine and trailed 56-54 on a 3-pointer by Sean Harrington with just over seven minutes to play.
But the Illini got no closer as Worley made a layup and Boyd converted a three-point play to make it 61-54 with 6:14 remaining.
The Hawkeyes were 24-of-35 from the line, compared to 13-of-17 for Illinois.
"We have played two nationally ranked teams and have doubled them in free-throw attempts. I think that shows we are attacking the basket," Alford said.
"Big Ten wide open? I don't know how many losses will win it," Self said. "I guess Iowa's in the driver's seat right now. But that will probably change six or seven times before the end of the season. The best road team is what will make a difference."