HQ forecast: Illinois 67, Nebraska 58
Nebraska at Illinois, 4:15 p.m. today
Illinois (20-9, 7-8 Big Ten)
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Tracy Abrams So. 6-1 10.6
G D.J. Richardson Sr. 6-3 12.8
G Brandon Paul Sr. 6-4 16.2
F Sam McLaurin Sr. 6-8 4.3
C Nnanna Egwu So. 6-11 6.6
FYI: With eight rebounds, Paul, who has scored 1,525 career points, would become the fifth player in program history to score more than 1,500 points and grab 500 rebounds, joining Deon Thomas, Brian Cook, Eddie Johnson and Mark Smith.
OFF THE BENCH
G Joseph Bertrand Jr. 6-6 8.0
F Tyler Griffey Sr. 6-9 7.4
F Myke Henry So. 6-6 3.3
Nebraska (13-15, 4-11 Big Ten)
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Ray Gallegos Jr. 6-2 12.3
G Shavon Shields Fr. 6-6 8.0
G Dylan Talley Sr. 6-5 14.2
F David Rivers So. 6-7 5.9
F Brandon Ubel Sr. 6-10 11.3
FYI: Talley has scored 20 or more points six times this season after having just three 20-point performances during his career entering the season. Those performances came in 2009-10 while Talley played at Binghamton.
OFF THE BENCH
G Benny Parker Fr. 5-9 2.9
G Jordan Tyrance So. 6-3 1.1
C Andre Almeida Sr. 6-11 4.9
Site: The Assembly Hall (16,618) Champaign.
TV: BTN — Wayne Larrivee (play-by-play) and Tim Doyle (analyst) have the call.
Radio: Brian Barnhart (play-by-play) and former Illini Jerry Hester (expert analysis) have the call on the Illini Sports Network on WDWS 1400-AM, WDAN 1490-AM, WHMS 97.5-FM, WDNL 102.1-FM and WPXN 104.9-FM.
Series: Illinois leads 9-3. Last meeting — Illinois 71, Nebraska 51, Jan. 22.
FYI: Illinois is 553-149 all time at the Assembly Hall, which opened at the end of the 1962-63 season.
Marcus Jackson’s storylines
It’s a celebratory day at the Assembly Hall, which opened on this date 50 years ago. Illinois’ 1962-63 Big Ten championship team played its final two home games in the new facility. Fans coming to today’s game will be issued a commemorative ticket marking the anniversary, and they’ll be treated to some looks at the past and a sneak peek at the future. Former players and entertainers who have performed in the building will share memories during a video presentation at halftime, and a video of the proposed renovation project will be shown during a timeout. “There’s a lot of history here. It’s very, very unique,” Tyler Griffey said. “I’m excited to see the renovations that are coming in the next couple years.”
With all that’s going on with the Assembly Hall and it being Senior Day, this one is shaping up to be an emotional event. The Illinois senior players, along with senior managers Andy Szabo, Paul Elliott, Ty Sampson and Andy Schmitt, will be honored with their families prior to the game. The trick will be whether the players can flip the switch once the ball goes up. The players say they’ll allow the emotions to take over after the game. “It will probably all hit me in the locker room after the game. I’ve put so much into this program, my pride and my heart are with this school,” said D.J. Richardson, whose teammates voted him most likely to cry. “I’ll always come back to help with whatever I can help with.”
If you’re looking at the score from Nebraska’s last game and assuming from that that today will be a breeze for the Illini, think again. The Cornhuskers were blown out Tuesday at Wisconsin by 31 points, but that can happen to anyone visiting Kohl Center. “I can identify,” said Illinois coach John Groce, whose team was whipped by 23 earlier this season in Madison. Illinois is coming off a defeat at Michigan on Sunday, which ended a five-game winning streak. “We have to play better than we played on Sunday,” Groce said. “Those guys know that. I challenged the staff; we have to coach better, we have to play better, we have to be better than we were. I don’t think that was a true reflection of how well we played in February.”
Prediction: Illinois 67, Nebraska 58
This is another one of those games for the Illini that doesn’t do a whole lot for them if they win, but it can be an absolute killer when it comes to maintaining solid footing inside the NCAA tournament field. A loss to the Cornhuskers would be the third loss for the Illini against teams with an RPI of 100 or higher and might leave them with some work to do in the final two games at Iowa and at Ohio State and then in the Big Ten tournament. Illinois has avoided talking about its NCAA tournament prospects, but the Illini are aware of what’s at stake today. “It’s a big game with some postseason implications, so we’ve got to win it,” Griffey said. “I’m not trying to think about anything else.” (N-G record: 17-12)