CHAMPAIGN, Illinois (Ticker) -- Illinois will fall out of the top 25, but managed to take some of the heat off coach Bruce Weber.
Sporting a balanced attack, Roger Powell scored 20 points and Nick Smith added 18 off the bench to lead the 25th-ranked Fighting Illini to an 88-82 victory over Iowa in a battle of Big Ten Conference rivals.
Illinois (11-4, 2-2 Big Ten) had a 23-game home winning streak snapped by Purdue last Saturday and followed that up with a 70-60 loss at perennial doormat Northwestern on Wednesday. The Fighting Illini shot 21 percent in the second half, converting 7-of-33 shots, at Northwestern.
But this time, they shot a torrid 68 percent in the second half, making 17-of-25, and pulled away from Iowa (9-5, 2-2) down the stretch in a game that featured nine ties and eight lead changes.
Illinois took the lead for good, 62-59 on a 3-pointer by Luther Head with 9:15 left. The Hawkeyes managed to stay close and pulled within 77-75 on a basket by Sean Sonderleiter with 1:49 remaining, but Illinois scored the next seven points, including a pair of free throws by Smith, who was 10-of-10 from the line.
Deron Williams scored 17 points and Dee Brown had 14 for Illinois, which improved to 46-2 at Assembly Hall over the last three-and-a-half years.
Pierre Pierce, an Illinois native, led Iowa with 26 points and Brody Boyd added 20. But Jeff Horner, the Hawkeyes' second-leading scorer, finished with just two points, nine below his season average.
Powell scored nine straight points in the first half when Illinois built a 26-17 lead. But Iowa reeled off 14 straight points, including six by Boyd, as the Fighting Illini missed six straight shots.
Illinois went on a 9-4 run to take a 37-35 lead, but missed its last eight shots of the half and Iowa closed with an 8-1 spurt to take a 43-38 lead at the break.
James Augustine started the second half with a dunk for Illinois, which scored 10 straight points for a 48-43 advantage. Glen Worley hit a pair of free throws with 13:29 left for Iowa's first points of the second half.
Iowa played without center Jared Reiner, who underwent surgery Friday to repair a stress fracture in his right foot. The Big Ten's leading rebounder last season, Reiner was averaging 10.5 points and 7.2 boards.