Men’s basketball loses on buzzer-beater at Nebraska


Austin Yattoni

Illinois forward Michael Finke shoots the ball during the game against Iowa at the State Farm Center on Thursday.

By Will Gerard, Staff writer

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood not only hugged, but also chest bumped junior forward Michael Finke moments after Finke sunk a crucial 3-point shot from the left wing, while also drawing a foul from the closeout defender. This put the team ahead by two points on a four-point play with eight seconds remaining against Nebraska on Monday night.

Underwood’s jubilation, however, was short-lived as Nebraska guard James Palmer Jr. caught a pass from junior point guard Glynn Watson Jr. and knocked down a contested 3-point shot with 0.3 seconds left before the final buzzer.

The Cornhuskers (13-7, 4-3 Big Ten) defeated the Illini (10-9, 0-6 Big Ten) 64-63 in a close back-and-forth affair at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Palmer led all scorers with 24 points in 38 minutes.

Freshman point guard Trent Frazier chucked a desperation heave from nearly the full length of the court, though the attempt grazed harmlessly off the left side of the backboard as time expired.

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Frazier once again carried the team offensively as sophomore point guard Te’Jon Lucas sat out for a second consecutive game.

Lucas didn’t travel with the Illini due to a violation of team rules.

Frazier scored 19 points (7-14 FG), following a career-high 27 points against Iowa on Thursday, and he has now scored in double figures in eight of the last nine games. He also brought down four rebounds and dished out five assists in a team-high 36 minutes.

“It’s hard to ask for a freshman point guard at this level to do much more than he’s doing,” Underwood said in a post-game radio interview. “He made plays, and he put it right on the spot to Mike (Finke) – it was a play that worked. We ran one (play) that worked, and they just kind of scrambled around at the end and threw one in, but that’s the way basketball works.”

Finke recorded his second double-double of the season (the first was Nov. 22, 2017, against Augustana) with 16 points (6-9 FG) and 10 rebounds. Five of Finke’s boards came on the offensive glass.

The Illini out-rebounded the Cornhuskers 46-29, and 18 of their rebounds were on the offensive end. However, they were only to convert 14 second-chance points.

Cornhuskers sophomore forward Isaiah Roby nearly recorded a double-double of his own in his first start of the season. Roby scored nine points and snagged 10 rebounds.

Nebraska also took much better care of the ball. Illinois recorded nearly twice as many turnovers (16 compared with the Cornhuskers’ 10), and Nebraska committed just two turnovers in the second half.

Both teams shot around 40 percent from the field (Illinois went 23-59, and Nebraska went 21-51), and they also both struggled from 3-point range (Illinois went 3-18, and Nebraska 5-23).

Freshman guard Da’Monte Williams contributed significant minutes down the stretch, though the player Underwood typically praises for his basketball intelligence made crucial mistakes in crunch-time down the stretch.

Underwood said he told everyone on the team to think about the small mistakes from the game because everyone was somehow responsible in his eyes, and he was in particularly upset with countless missed layup attempts.

Williams turned the ball over on consecutive possessions with less than two minutes left in the ballgame. His first turnover was reminiscent of the errant outlook pass he made late in the previous game against Iowa, and he was stripped of the ball on the next possession, which led to a fast break dunk.

Junior forward Leron Black added 13 points (6-8 FG) and secured eight rebounds.

“Like I just told our guys, nothing is given,” Underwood said. “It’s all earned until the final horn.”


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