Live! At Nebraska

Live! At Nebraska

Nebraska 67, Illinois 58 — FINAL

LINCOLN, Neb. — Shavon Shields scoreda career-high 33 points and Terran Petteway added 16 as the Conrhuskers (13-10, 5-6 Big Ten) moved to 11-1 inside the brand-new Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Illinois (14-11, 3-9) got 23 points from Rayvonte Rice, but were held without a field goal for 5:57 down the stretch late in the game. Rice was the only Illinois player to reach double figures.

Nnanna Egwu tied a career-high grabbing 12 rebounds in the loss, Illinois' ninth in its last 10 games.

More later on HQ.

Nebraska 44, Illinois 40 — 11:58 second half

The 10-0 run by Nebraska has the crowd back into it and feeling good. They were complaining a lot early in the half about the officiating. Now they're ready to party.

John Groce doing his best to crush the momentum, calling a timeout.

There's a guy in a Nebraska Snuggie sitting behind the Nebraska bench in the front row of students. Tell me that guy isn't ready to having a raging-good time.

Jon Ekey has to lead the nation in missed tip dunks. They would be so cool and on the late-night highlight shows if he could get them to stay in the basket.

The Illini got a lot of favorable whistles early. The fans here aren't happy. Nebraska will probably get the calls late.

It's already starting to even out.

Nnanna Egwu got hit with a moving screen and Maverick Morgan took a tough offensive foul call. Illinois went back to Austin Colbert after the two big men got those fouls.

Illinois did a nice job early in the half getting Nnanna Egwu some post touches. The big man got a couple buckets as a result after a scoreless first half.

Really good ball movement early in the half for Illinois, though it looks like they're playing a little too fast at times.

Nebraska's students rip up pieces of newspapers before the game at at halftime. The first Cornhuskers bucket of each half, they toss the pieces into the air.

I've got to get rolling. Got to try to beat this deadline.

Nebraska 31, Illinois 30 — Halftime

Nebraska has had a really difficult time guarding the drive and Rayvonte Rice has taken advantage, getting into the lane at will. He did it on that last play of the half, just didn't get the call. Jon Ekey bailed him out with the rebound and got to the line.

Terran Petteway is a real nice-looking player. He's a 22-year-old sophomore. 

Illinois fans on Twitter tell me Rayvonte Rice got away with a travel early in the half on a breakaway layup. Sam Maniscalco said he Lebron'd it.

Illinois hasn't gotten away with the double dribble tonight. Abrams and Malcolm Hill both got whistled for the rare infraction. John Groce told each to settled down a bit after them.

Malcolm Hill's second foul at the under-8 timeout forced him to the bench. After the timeout, Illinois went with its five veterans. 

on Ekey has had at least two shots roll around the rim and out. That's tough luck.

Leslee Smith hit his head on the floor pretty good after taking some contact from Jaylon Tate. Tate was giving up 95 pounds there and ended up coming away unscathed.

Illinois shot 40 percent (10 for 25) from the floor and 30 percent (3 for 10) from three-point range. The Illini shot 63.6 percent (7 for 11) from the foul line.

Rayvonte Rice led the way with 12 points and three rebounds. Nnanna Egwu was scoreless, but pulled down six rebounds, had two assists and blocked a shot. Kendrick Nunn and Joseph Bertrand each had five points.

Nebraska shot 42.9 percent (9 for 21) from the floor and 42.9 percent (3 for 7) from three-point range. Thue Huskers were 10 for 10 from the foul line. That's 100 percent, FYI.

Shavon Sjields led the way with 14 points. Terran Petteway added 10.

Rebounds are even at 15 apiece. Nebraska turned it over six times, Illinois five.

Illinois 19, Nebraska 18 — 9:55 first half

Can't say enough about the atmosphere here. Every seat is occupied and the fans are really into the game.

Nebraska is really guarding Illinois, especially on the perimeter. The defensive effort has really helped get the crowd more involved.

Nebraska had gone on a 14-4 run after Illinois took a 10-2 lead, but a Joseph Bertrand three and Kendrick Nunn's transition layup shut that down.

John Groce said yesterday there are very few "mid-range monsters" anymore, but he said Hill, Nunn and Bertrand have some pretty solid mid-range skills. Hill proved that the first play of the gam, knocking down a pull-up jumper from about 15 feet.

Groce said the other day thane thing he didn't like Sunday was that his team didn't play well after the play, meaning when the initial call broke down, they didn't do a very good job creating leading to desperation shots late in the clock. Keep an eye on that tonight.

Rough start for Tracy Abrams. He fumbled a ball in the corner leading to a held ball and then flat-out double dribbled the next time down.

Jon Ekey is doing a better job of putting the ball on the floor to give himself better looks. His first one ended up in a shot that rolled out, the next time he drew a foul and the he made a driving layup.

Illinois (14-10, 3-8) at Nebraska (12-10, 3-6) — TIPOFF (BTN)

Illinois will start the same lineup as Sunday with Tracy Abrams, Kendrick Nunn, Rayvonte Rice, Malcolm Hill and Nnanna Egwu.

We've talked about that a little bit the past few days.

Before the game, John Groce spent a few minutes with Nebraska assistant Chris Harriman and told him he loved the story the BTN's "Journey" did on Harriman and his family a few weeks ago.

The Nebraska fans cheer for all the Illinois players and John Groce during the starting lineups. Such nice people here.

I'm joined here by Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times and Shannon Ryan of the Tribune. Read their stuff tomorrow.

I haven't seen Rob McColley, but I'm sure he's here somewhere.

Greenberg got excited before the game started. He got a text that his seventh-grade son made a game-winning layup in his game tonight.

The story has changed, however. His team was up by a point and he scored with .5 on the clock. It was still clutch in my book.

Let me know how the broadcast is.

Illinois (14-10, 3-8) at Nebraska (12-10, 3-6) — 8:06 p.m. (BTN)

The Nebraska student section has taken its place behind the team benches. You'll see those crazy kids on television. I caught up with the president of their student section and he told me the combination of the new arena, plus the energy Tim Miles has brought to the program has led to the revival of the students. 

The Nebraska athletic department also got involved and encouraged student involvement.

The student section hands out flyers before the game with some funny, not-true information about the opposing players. Some highlights: Rayvonte Rice's mom dressed him up as a girl and put him in beauty contests as a kid.

Joseph Bertrand write fictional love stories with Mike LaTulip.

Nnanna Egwu never gets invited out by his teammates and his spring break plans are to babysit John Groce's dog.\Tracy Abrams had Rebecca Black perform at his Sweet 16 and he wears moisturizing gloves to bed.

Jon Ekey's last name is pronounced "Icky."

Fun stuff.

Hope you caught our story about the new lineup today. In it, I mentioned John Groce's favorite 80s one-hit wonder. It's "Hey Eileen" by Dexys Midnight Runners. I just talked to Groce a few minutes ago and he said he went back and forth between giving me that one and "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell.

This will be Illinois' first game at Pinnacle Bank Arena. They've opened four other Big Ten arenas with wins in their first tries (Welsh-Ryan, Crisler and Williams Arena, Kohl Center). Jerry Hester, the radio analyst, was on the Illinois team that won its first game at Kohl Center in Wisconsin in 1998. Hester told me he had 15 points and 13 rebounds in that game.

Illinois could use him tonight.

The four-sided video board here is gigantic.

There are some Illinois fans here. One man is wearing a Demetri McCamey throwback. I thought it was Jereme Richmond at first, but it was 32 and not 22.

Illinois (14-10, 3-8) at Nebraska (12-10, 3-6) — 8:06 p.m. (BTN)

Good evening from the brand-spankin'-new Pinnacle Bank Arena, where Illinois looks to hand Nebraska just its second home loss of the season in a late tip. I've been looking forward to coming to this place since I was in Lincoln last year at the Devany Sports Center and everyone kept raving about how nice this new place was going to be. They weren't exaggerating, it's big-time.

Everything is spacious, sight lines are great from everywhere and the food up her eon the concourse smells delicious. 

They're actually hosting the women's NCAA tournament Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games here this year.

The arena is located in the swanky Haymarket district of Lincoln with a bunch of new restaurants and hotels. There was a courtyard about a block away from here with a gigantic television screen showing the winter Olympics.

About a dozen or so students were waiting outside at the door to get prime seats here when I showed up about two and a half hours before the game. From watching on television, the atmosphere in here gets pretty intense. I'm sure you saw the court storming after the Huskers knocked off Ohio State here a couple of weeks ago. The new arena and the improvement in the program under second-year coach Tim Miles appears to have folks excited about hoops here. It will never match football, but they're making some noise.

If you read the News-Gazette today or read this website, you'll notice that I picked Illinois to win tonight. I'm not really basing that on anything other than a feeling. I did the same thing prior to the Penn State game and that worked out for all involved. The Illini are playing a bit better and the change in lineup appears to have energized the team some.

As you know, Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill made their first starts on Sunday and both posted career-best totals for points. Tracy Abrams went through a similar situation his freshman year and knows what those guys are experiencing.

"You've got to be humble about it first off and understand your role. It's a great confidence booster," Abrams said. "It gives guys a little more juice to go harder."

I'll be here throughout the night, updating you as best I can while still trying to make deadline with tomorrow's coverage against the tight deadline.

Illinois is on the floor warming up. They're wearing orange. Like he did on Sunday, John Groce made the rare presume appearance on the bench to watch warmups. With his Starbucks in tow.

I'm going to mingle and check this place out. I'll be back with another update soon.

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