LIVE! vs. Nebraska
Illinois 60, Nebraska 49 — FINAL
CHAMPAIGN — Kendrick Nunn, the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Week, scored a game-high 13 points to go along with three rebounds and three assists in leading Illinois to its third win in the five games he and fellow freshman Malcolm Hill have been in the starting lineup.
Hill (five rebounds) and Rayvonte Rice (10 rebounds) each scored 10 points for the Illini (16-12, 5-10 Big Ten).
Jon Ekey (six boards) and Nnanna Egwu (five rebounds) each scored eight points for Illinois, which has held three straight opponents under 50 points.
Nebraska got 13 points from Terran Petteway, five fewer than the Big Ten Player for the year candidate’s average.
More later on HQ.
Illinois 43, Nebraska 37 — 11:33 second half
When you're hot, you're hot. Kendrick Nunn shot a three-pointer about 3 feet too long from the point and it hit the backboard and went in. The Big Ten Freshman of the Week leads all scorers with 13 points.
Two quick fouls on Nnanna Egwu in the first 82 seconds of the half. Both were questionable.Malcolm Hill buried a three-pointer, then the next time down ran down a long rebound in the corner to keep the possession alive that Rayvonte Rice eventually ended with a three-pointer. It got John Groce all fired up.
He said something after one offensive possession that got the guys on the end of the bench chuckling. I think they were more chuckling at his expression that what he actually said.
Hill has buried a couple of threes this half and infused some life into the crowd.
About seven minutes into the half, Tracy Abrams was gassed. He hadn't sat yet and the coaches recognized he needed a blow.
Austin Colbert gave some quality minutes for a brief stretch early. The freshman finished an offensive possession with a dunk.
Illinois 27, Nebraska 24 —Halftime
Kendrick Nunn, the Big Ten Freshman of the Week, is playing like it, leading the way with 10 points. Illinois drew up a nice play on the last possession of the half with a Raice layup rolling out of the rim. Rice thought he was fouled.
"We've given them six points off turnovers," Groce told the bench midway through the half.
Malcolm Hill was matched up on Benny Parker in the post and as open, but didn't get the ball. The Illinois bench was beside itself yelling at them to get him the ball. Hill is 6-6, Parker is 5-9 — in heels.
"Fellas, we have to be nastier in the gaps," Jamall Walker yelled at the team.
There was a mistake with the official scoring. Everyone thought Rayvonte Rice's first foul was his second and Groce took him out of the game. It was only his first.
"How many is that? One?" Groce asked. "Ray, go back."
Orange Krush big wig Ryan Gant mad a layup and a free throw during a timeout promotion. He came up empty from three-point range to complete the deal. We're going to need to work on that form, Ryan.
Illinois shot 38.5 percent from the floor (10 for 26) and 26.7 percent (4 for 15) from long range.
Nunn led the way with 10 points. Joseph Bertrand added six and Rayvonte Rice had a team-high five rebounds.
Nebraska shot 10 for 28 (35.7 percent) from the floor and 0 for 8 from three. My calculator says that's 0 percent.
Leslee Smith led the way with seven points, David Rivers had six.
Illinois won the rebounding battle 21-15. The Illini turned it over seven times. Nebraska gave it away three times.
I'm told by our football writer Matt Daniels that Jimmy Fitzgerald, the future Illinois quarterback, is here tonight with two other prospects. Joining Fitzgerald, a 2015 commit from Centennial, are offensive tackles Quinn Oseland from Sacred Heart-Griffin and Gabe Gabe Megginson. Megginson has 21 offers, including Miami and Ohio State. Oseland has offers from six programs including Oregon.
Illinois 14, Nebraska 11 — 11:49 first half
A lot of energy here in the early going for Joseph Bertrand. He skied for an offensive rebound and put it back for a bucket. Later, he went even higher for a long tap-out rebound for another offensive board. Bertrand scored a total of seven points in the four games leading up to tonight's
Illinois is shooting 46 percent in the early going. Nunn leads the way with five points.
"Boy, they hedged the hell out of Ray," Groce said during the first play of the game. Walter Pitrchford was all over him.
Nnanna Egwu got post touches on the first three offensive possessions and he went 2 for 3.
Kendrick Nunn started the night guarding Terran Petteway. Big assignment for the youngster.
Like they did last week at Minnesota, Illinois' coaching staff is calling out the plays of the opponent before they happen.
Tim Miles is all over Gene Steratore. He wanted a foul on Jon Ekey on the play where Ekey got an offensive rebound and then hit a three.
Aaron Jordan and Michael Finke are here.
Nebraska (16-10, 8-6) at Illinois (15-12, 4-10) — Tipoff (BTN)
Looks like the Michigan-Purdue game is going into overtime. You're going to miss the beginning of this one.
For the fifth straight game, Illinois will start Tracy Abrams, Kendrick Nunn, Rayvonte Rice, Malcolm Hill and Nnanna Egwu. Illinois is 2-2 with the crew starting.
Nebraska is going with Tai Webster, David Rivers, Terran Petteway, Shavon Shields and Walter Pitchford.
Plenty of good seats still available. There are gaping sections of the C level still waiting for someone to occupy them. It's really bad up there.
There are a couple dozen football players here wearing their orange jerseys.
I'm told Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley will be here tonight. Of course the Jaguars are owned by Illinois grad Shaid Khan and Bradley will be here with one of Khan's kids. They're on their way back from the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
Terry Wymer, Gene Steratore and Tom Eades are your officials tonight.
Loren tells me he likes Eades and Steratore. He doesn't know much about Wymer.
Loren's computer was yelling at me during the National Anthem.
Nebraska (16-10, 8-6) at Illinois (15-12, 4-10) — 8:06 p.m. BTN
Guess who the color analyst for tonight's game on the Big Ten Network is? If you guessed anyone other than Shon Morris, you're dead wrong. This is the sixth game in the last seven for Illinois in which Shon has been the color guys. It might actually be seven of eight. I've lost track.
I ran into Morris in the airport last week leaving Minneapolis. Neither of us was happy, the lines were long and unnecessarily long at that.
A few minutes ago, Ke$ha's hit "Timber" played here at State Farm Center and one of the Nebraska players started running around the court yelling "We're in Nebraska now! It feels like we're right back at home!" Apparently that song is a popular one at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Illinois basketball team participated in the Jock Jams fundraiser last night with the other UI athletes at Huff Hall. The proceeds went to some local good causes, including the tornado relief effort from the areas affected in November.
I'm trying to find out what the basketball players did. I'm told it was the freshmen who participated.
I'm not kidding, the warmest place in this building is the men's restroom down on the lower level in the tunnel.
Nebraska's Terran Petteway was the first player from the Cornhuskers on the floor tonight. There's a chance he might leave after this season. He's having a heck of a year and he's caught the attention of some NBA folks.
Nebraska is wearing red. Illinois will wear white.
Late-arriving crowd here. The Orange Krush has been in place for a while now.
Going to start writing some stuff for tomorrow's paper now. These late starts are really kicking my butt.
Nebraska (16-10, 8-6) at Illinois (15-12, 4-10) — 8:06 p.m. BTN
Greetings from a frigid State Farm Center where the Illini look to deal a serious blow to Nebraska's NCAA tournament hopes.
Tom Dienhart tweeted today that two years ago he never imagined a loss by Nebraska to Illinois would be considered a bad loss. That certainly would be the case here tonight.
Asked yesterday if they feel more like the hunted than hunters during this current run of five straight wins and seven of the last eight, Cornhuskers coach Tim Miles said "No, we're still trying to hunt the NCAA tournament."
Nebraska is one of the hottest teams in the league, but it's real tough to win six in a row in the Big Ten and even tougher to win on the road. Illinois is playing well. All that is why I picked the Illini in a tight one tonight.
If you didn't know, Tim Miles is one of the more charismatic coaches in all of the country. He joked in his news conference yesterday that he doesn't know whether he should call this place Assembly Hall or State Farm Center, that was his main concern entering tonight.
Just saw Aaron Cosby make 12 of 15 three-pointers and Ahmad Starks followed that with 12 of 15 himself. Starks missed his last two shots, too. Those were uncontested threes early during drills. Darius Paul's shot has improved a lot this season
They're all going to add some serious depth next year along with Leron Black and Michael Finke. Finke had a huge night Tuesday with 42 points. Interested to see how he fits in next season.
Loren Tate made a good point on the radio a bit ago saying Nebraska is a prime example of how quickly you can turn things around. They've got three transfers and a freshman playing this season. Illinois has its three transfers and two freshmen coming in. Things will most likely be better next season.
I've got partner here tonight, Mahomet-Seymour senior Tori Rolson is shadowing me for a school project. I'm going to fill her in on what's going on and put her to work.
Be back soon.