Iowa went on a 26-7 second half run to take the lead, and then held off Illinois to win 64-61 in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament today. The Hawkeyes advance in the tourney for the first time since in six years, in what coach Fran McCaffery called a hard-fought game.

“The intensity level defensively in this game required us to play nine players, and required us to get good play from all nine. So this is really a team victory,” McCaffery said. Senior Matt Gatens led Iowa with 20 points, while freshman Aaron White had 13. Iowa next faces top-seeded Michigan State.

“You know what, you pretty much are going to have to play the number one seed if you are going to get through this thing,” McCaffery said. “You know we played them well last year. Not so much this year. We’ve got to get a little bit better.”

Iowa faces the Spartans Friday at 11 a.m. The win pushes Iowa’s record to 17-15 and guarantees them a winning season.