The Big Ten opened a five-day run at Madison Square with Jordan Bohannon leading Iowa past Illinois 96-87 on Wednesday night in the first game of the conference tournament.
Bohannon scored 25 points and had six assists, including a bounce pass to Luka Garza for a jam with 34 seconds left to keep the Illini at bay.
The 12th-seeded Hawkeyes (14-18) got solid work inside from Tyler Cook (19 points, five rebounds) and Garza (20 and eight) to go with the accurate shooting of Bohannon. The sophomore was 5 for 7 from 3-point range. Iowa will face fifth-seeded Michigan on Thursday.
Kipper Nichols scored a career-best 31 points for 13th seed Illinois (14-18) to close out coach Brad Underwood's first season with two wins in its final nine games.
The Big Ten planted its flag in New York five years ago when Rutgers was added along with Maryland. The conference opened up an office in Manhattan and started sending a football team to the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. Bringing the conference hoops tournament to the Big Apple was another move by Commissioner Jim Delany to claim the biggest media market in the country as Big Ten territory.
The first Big Ten tournament game ever played at the "Mecca of Basketball" featured teams that were a combined 1,665 miles away from their campuses - give or take a few miles.