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Tom Davis watched his Hawkeyes erase an 18-point deficit to end Kansas' 62-game home winning streak in December 1998.

Where Iowa basketball’s comeback at Illinois ranks in school history

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ANSWER: Iowa’s rally from 20 points down at Illinois for a 104-97 overtime victory Thursday night was the third-largest deficit the Hawkeyes have overcome in program history. It was the fifth time Iowa has rallied from down at least 18 points to pull out a victory. Oddly, four of the five huge comebacks took place in hostile road venues.

By points, the biggest comeback in school history was on Nov. 17, 2012, in a home game against Gardner-Webb. The Hawkeyes trailed 38-15 late in the first half before storming back to win 65-56. More than anything, Iowa was horrible offensively that night and Gardner-Webb played its best half of basketball. In the second half, the Hawkeyes collectively realized there was no reason to lose to Gardner-Webb.

What I remember most from that day wasn’t basketball, however. It was the breaking news that Maryland and Rutgers were joining the Big Ten. It also was a day before Iowa flew to Mexico for the Cancun Challenge, so it was obvious that the players’ minds were focused on the beach rather than basketball, at least in that first half.

Iowa’s second-biggest comeback took place on Jan. 14, 1987, also in Champaign, Ill. The No. 1-ranked Hawkeyes trailed the No. 8 Fighting Illini by 22 points with 16:11 left in the game. Iowa scored the next 10 points to make the game competitive. After trailing by 11 with 4:50 remaining, Iowa outscored the Illini 13-3 to send the game into overtime. The Hawkeyes pulled out a 91-88 victory to improve to 16-0 overall. Iowa outrebounded Illinois 49-31 in that game, led by Brad Lohaus’ 23 points and 12 rebounds. Illinois’ Tony Wysinger had 34 points of 13-of-16 shooting. Back then, the Hawkeyes and Fighting Illini were archrivals and every game was outstanding. 

On Jan. 2, 2016, Iowa rallied from 19 points down with 2:21 left in the first half to stun Purdue 70-63 at Mackey Arena. Iowa’s zone-trapping defense forced the Boilermakers into multiple second-half turnovers as well as poor shots. Making the comeback more memorable was that it came on Rick Mount Night, when the former Purdue icon returned to his old stomping grounds for the first time in a generation.

In Tom Davis’ final season as coach, on Dec. 9, 1998, Iowa rallied from an 18-point deficit with 12:52 left in the game to shock No. 10 Kansas 85-81 at Allen Field House. The victory ended the Jayhawks’ 62-game home winning streak. The Hawkeyes committed 31 turnovers but overcame those miscues with sharp shooting from Kent McCausland, who sank five 3-pointers.

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