Defensive effort not enough as Nebraska loses to Illinois 72-56
Sam Griesel had a game-high 21 points, but a second-half cold spell proved costly in Nebraska's 72-56 loss at Illinois Tuesday evening.
Nebraska used a 9-0 run to take a 50-48 lead after a 3-pointer from Keisei Tominaga with 11:57 remaining, but hit two field goals the rest of the way to fall to 10-13 overall and 3-9 in the Big Ten.
Griesel finished with 21 points and six rebounds in his highest scoring game since the season opener, while Keisei Tominaga added 11 points off the bench, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range. Nebraska shot just 28 percent
in the second half after shooting 52 percent in the opening 20 minutes. NU also had 13 of its 19 turnovers in the second half, as Illinois (16-6, 7-4) converted the turnovers into 20 points in the win.
Matthew Mayer led four Illinois players in double figures with 16 points, while Terrence Shannon Jr. (13) and Jayden Epps (12) combined for 25 points.
Nebraska, which trailed by one going into halftime, got off to a slow start in the second stanza as Illinois stretched the lead to 46-39 after opening the half on an 8-2 run. The Huskers trailed 48-41 before blitzing the Illini with a 9-0 run over the next minute. Keisei Tominaga and C.J. Wilcher combined for a trio of 3-pointers, as NU took a 50-48 lead with 11:47 remaining.
Illinois responded with an 8-0 run of its own as a Shannon basket and two hoops by Sencire Harris extended the lead to 56-50 with 7:57 left. The Huskers kept battling behind Griesel as he got NU within 59-54 with a basket with 6:27 left. and NU trailed 63-56 just less than four minutes remaining before the Illini closed the game with a 9-0 run in building its largest lead of the night.
In the first half, the Huskers relied on Griesel and some solid offense in the final five minutes to get within 38-37 at halftime. Griesel scored all 15 of his first half points in the first 13 minutes, as he accounted for 15 of the
Huskers' first 17 markers. Nebraska, which shot 53 percent in the first half, used an early 10-2 run to build a 12-5 on Griesel's 3-pointer with 13:03 left in the half. The Huskers then weathered a pair of Illini runs and trailed 28-20 with 5:00 remaining in the first stanza. The Huskers, who held Illinois 38.2 percent shooting, kept chipping away and used a 7-1 run to get within 31-29 with 2:50 left in the half. NU, which hit its last six shots, got 3-pointers from Wilcher and Tominaga to pull with one at the break.
The Huskers return home to face Penn State on Sunday afternoon. Tipoff at Pinnacle Bank Arena is set for 3:30 p.m. and tickets are available by visiting Huskers.com/Tickets or calling the Nebraska Athletic Ticket Office at 800-8-BIGRED during business hours.
•-Nebraska started three freshmen (Jamarques Lawrence, Denim Dawson and Sam Hoiberg) for the first time since Feb. 20, 2016. That night was the last of four straight games started by Glynn Watson Jr., Michael Jacobson and Jack McVeigh.
•-Sam Hoiberg becomes the 11th different Husker to start a game this season, as Nebraska used its seventh different lineup of the season. Hoiberg becomes the third Husker freshman to start at least once this season.
•-Prior to tonight, the last time that Nebraska had two Lincoln natives in the starting lineup was January 11, 2003, at Kansas (Jake Muhleisen and Andrew Drevo).
*-Blaise Keita saw his first action since Jan. 12, as he missed NU's last four games with an ankle injury. Before tonight, he has played just eight minutes since suffering the injury against Queens on Dec. 20 He finished with four rebounds in 11 minutes.
*-Sam Griesel reached double figures for the 12th time this season and posted his second 20-point game of the season. It was his second 20-point game of the season and 15th of his career. It was his highest output since scoring 22 against Maine in the opener.
*-Keisei Tominaga had 11 points off the bench, his 13th double-figure game and 9th off the bench this season.Tominaga also matched his career high with three steals
*-Nebraska went 8-of-20 from 3-point range, while holding Illinois to 5-of-29 from 3-point range.