Illinois men’s basketball grabs second conference win with score 76-50 against Nebraska

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Sidney Malone

Senior guard Terrance Shannon Jr. leaps for a dunk against Wisconsin on Jan. 7. The Illini gets back on foot after their defeat from Northwestern with the Illini’s second win on Tuesday against Nebraska.

By Drew Friberg

After grabbing their first conference win at home against No. 14 Wisconsin last week, the Illini went on to grab its second win in a row against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, winning 76-50.

Brad Underwood stuck to his guns, fielding the same lineup as against the Badgers, consisting of senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr., freshman guard Sencire Harris, fifth-year senior forward Matthew Mayer, junior forward Coleman Hawkins and redshirt sophomore Dain Dainja.

The bout in Lincoln began as a defensive slugfest, with no field goals in the opening four minutes, until Shannon drove to the rim and extended the Illini’s lead to three. It was a quiet start for both teams, with just 11 points scored in the first five minutes.

Illinois’ slow start didn’t last long, however, as the team went on a 9-0 run over four minutes, spearheaded by a dunk by Hawkins. The Cornhuskers then went on a run of their own, cutting the deficit to five with just six minutes left in the half.

A Shannon layup then extended the lead back to seven, while grabbing double-digit points for the second game in a row. He went on to score 25 on the night, and earned another double-double on the season with 11 rebounds.

The stout defensive performance combined with cold shooting on both sides saw the first half end with Illinois leading 34-23 behind Shannon’s 17 first half points. From the field, the Illini shot 10-30 with just six turnovers. Despite the Cornhuskers’ best efforts to force turnovers, the Illini had uncharacteristically good ball security in the first half on Tuesday.

Illinois’ poor shooting began to hurt them at the start of the second half. Nebraska went on a quick 6-0 run following three missed shots by Illinois before Hawkins’ triple ended the Illini’s shooting woes and beginning a personal 7-0 run over one minute. Illinois led 46-31 after the first five minutes of half two.

After Hawkins’ three, shots began to fall. In the first half, Illinois shot 33.3% from the field, but after ten minutes in the second half, the Illini shot 60%. This extended the team’s lead to 20, leading 55-35. Shannon also earned his 10th rebound during this time, securing his double-double.

However, more streaky shooting by the Illini saw the Cornhuskers cut their deficit to just 11 after a 9-0 run. With just seven minutes left, Illinois led 57-46.  After righting the ship with a Shannon layup, the Illini rode out their momentum, winning 76-50.

This win marked Underwood’s second victory in the Big Ten this season, after three shock losses to start the conference season. Shannon shined once again, but Illinois also had four other scorers with 10+ points. This was second game in a row that the Illini had at least four players with double digit points.

Next up, Illinois heads back to Champaign, as the Illini welcome the Michigan State Spartans on Friday.

 

@DrewFriberg9

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