It is probably fitting that on Groundhog Day no less, Nebraska put in an uneven performance that Husker fans have seen before this season. Now with five straight losses, Nebraska may be out of time and out of answers.
The Huskers got immediately punched in the mouth, as the Illini raced out to a 7-0 lead to start the game. However, Nebraska quickly erased that margin after scoring 10 straight.
Later on in the first, the Huskers were able to build up a slim lead, up by five after Amir Harris found a basket at the rim. But the Illini dominated the rest of the first half, compiling a 20-6 run to close out the first.
Though the Huskers kept themselves in it during the second half, Nebraska was unable to cut the lead down to less than seven points. Illinois went on to win 71-64.
Nebraska was only 35.7% in field goals and just 3-23 from beyond the arc.
“Cold shooting is like a virus once it starts to go bad, (at) the foul line or three point shooting,” Nebraska head coach Tim Miles said. “We’ve got to step into those and do a much better job shooting the basketball (and) getting higher quality shots.”
Already down a player with the injury to Isaac Copeland, Nebraska didn’t receive much help from their bench either. “We’re not deep enough,” Miles said. “Here we are – even in turnovers, we win the paint, we win second chance points by two, and then it goes 36-4 in bench scoring.”
The fighting Illini’s top scorer, Kipper Nichols, dropped 18 points, which was devastating for Nebraska. Glynn Watson only scored six, finishing just 3-12 on the day and 0-6 from deep.
Despite the loss though, a couple of Huskers had good games. James Palmer Jr. had another 20 point game, the 11th time he’s dropped 20 or more this season. Also, Tanner Borchardt had a 12 point, 18 rebound double-double. His 18 boards are the most by a Husker since Ed Morrow grabbed the same amount in a loss to Gardner-Webb back in 2016.
Borchardt’s efforts on the glass weren’t enough for Nebraska, however. For the second consecutive game, the Huskers won the rebounding battle, but failed to win. Against Illinois, Nebraska was +14 in the rebounding margin, pulling down 50 boards to Illinois’ 36.
Currently in the midst of a five game losing streak and still with 9 league games to go, it’ll be a long winter for Nebraska. Unfortunately for the Huskers, not even Punxsutawney Phil can change that.
(Photo by Kenny Larabee)