LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The story of Nebraska’s 53-43 win over Illinois Sunday is found in the numbers.
Illinois made just 15 of 55 shots, 27.3 percent, the lowest an opponent has shot against Nebraska since Tim Miles became the Cornhuskers’ coach in 2012. The Fightin’ Illini’s 43 points were the second fewest allowed by a Miles-coached Nebraska team.READ MORE: SWAT Team Responding To Building In South Loop For Call Of Men With Guns Inside
“A big part of our offensive struggles, Nebraska deserves a lot of credit for that,” said Illinois coach John Groce. “Their defense is ranked in top 25 in the country for a reason when it comes to efficiency. I thought they were very difficult to score on tonight. I thought they defended very well. They did a great job.”
Nebraska forward David Rivers said the Husker defense worked as planned.
“We played pack defense and just executed what the coaches have been preaching to us all week,” Rivers said. “We were solid on defense packing it in, keeping it tight, trying to get the shooters the best we could. I think our screen-and-roll defense was good tonight and that was something we were working on.”
Nebraska (10-6, 2-2 Big Ten) built an 11-point lead midway through the second half and made 4 of 4 from the line in the final two minutes to seal the win. The Huskers shot and made just one free throw in the first 38 minutes of the game.
Illinois (11-6, 1-3) cut the Nebraska lead to six late in the game but struggled to hit shots. The Fightin’ Illini made just 15 of 55 shots and didn’t have a basket after the 3:14 mark until Aaron Cosby’s short jumper with :14 left.
Nebraska took the first double-digit lead of the game on Terran Petteway’s 3-pointer that put the Huskers up 34-24 with 16:48 remaining. But Illinois’ Kendrick Nunn countered with a 3 on the next possession.
But the Illini fell behind 40-29 on Petteway’s layup with 11:06 left. Nebraska then went cold, hitting just one basket over a five-minute span. Leron Black’s dunk with 8:09 left capped a 6-2 Illinois spurt, cutting the lead to 42-36.
“We’re sitting there at one point, late in the game, 6, 7 minutes left, we’re holding them to 27 percent and we’re only up six,” Miles said. “I’m like ‘what do we got to do?’ You can’t play much better defense than that. It wasn’t like we were awful turning the ball over. We were shooting a decent percentage. But it was just one of those nights. Nobody’s going to the foul line. It’s going to be a tight game. I was proud of our team effort.”
Nebraska again pulled away, outscoring Illinois 7-2 in the next five minutes and taking a 49-38 lead on Petteway’s 3-pointer with 3:25 left. Illinois got no closer than eight the rest of the game.READ MORE: Archer Heights Offering Food Giveaway Every Tuesday Night
Illinois, which didn’t lead after the 15:49 mark of the first half, put up 17 3-point shots in the first half and made just three, but Nebraska couldn’t take advantage of the poor shooting and led by just six at the half.
Shavon Shields had 11 points for Nebraska. Nunn and Malcolm Hill each had 10 for Illinois.
Illinois: The Illini played its second game without leading scorer and rebounder Rayvonte Rice. The senior guard, who was averaging 17 points and 7 rebounds a game, fractured a bone in his left hand Monday and underwent surgery Wednesday. He will be out for several weeks.
Nebraska: Avery Harriman, the seven-year-old son of Nebraska assistant Chris Harriman, joined Rivers and Shavon Shields at Nebraska’s post-game press conference. Avery, who has been battling leukemia, had no evidence of cancer in his second biopsy this week.
“For what he went through he is like — I mean he is little, but everybody can look up at what he has been through,” Rivers said. “He is big to the team, we are like a family. So it is big for everyone.”
Illinois visits Northwestern Wednesday.
Nebraska visits Wisconsin Thursday.MORE NEWS: FDA Approves Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine For Children Ages 12 To 15
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