I was really hoping for a blowout today so we could celebrate the Hall's birthday and Senior Day but Nebraska is a team full of insensitive jerks.
I kept waiting for Nebraska to run out of gas and then I would wait some more and wait some more and wait some more after that. The Cornhuskers only got ten minutes from their bench this afternoon and no points, but it wasn't until the final minutes that they finally seemed to die out.
And it made for a Senior Day that was a lot more tense than I had hoped for.
I mentioned in the preview that the only real chance Nebraska had to win this game was if Dylan Talley went off. Well, he finished with 20 points and had a good day, but it was his teammate Ray Gallegos that was truly destroying the Illini. Gallegos finished with 23 points and hit six three-pointers to keep Nebraska in this game all day long.
Thankfully our talent, balance and depth won out in the end.
D.J. Richardson disappeared for about a 17-minute stretch during this game, Sam McLaurin had to leave with a bad ankle for a while and Tyler Griffey was pretty much non-existent, but Senior Day was not spoiled. Richardson still managed to finish with 13 points, and though he struggled in the first half Brandon Paul found himself finishing with 14 points and draining some key -- and sometimes insane -- buckets down the stretch to help win this game.
Though the real hero today was Myke Henry.
Henry finished with a career high of 12 points but he also grabbed 9 rebounds. None of which were bigger than an offensive rebound in the final minute after a missed Paul three to get the Illini another possession and force Nebraska to start sending us to the free throw line.
Thankfully we made those free throws and thankfully we managed to win this game.
Though I'm not as excited at the prospect of playing Nebraska in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament anymore.
-- I really think that even if we lost out we'd still get an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament, but today's win sealed it. We're in. I think. I hope? Yeah, we are.
-- The Illini had five players finish in double-digits today. They also had 39 bench points. Nebraska had none.
-- I mentioned that Tyler Griffey was non-existent today, but he did finish with 3 points and 2 rebounds, and that three-pointer came late with the Illini down four and helped restore order. So his contribution counted.
-- Nnanna Egwu continues to improve as a mid-range shooter and had 10 points today. He was pretty effective when he got the ball and efficient, which makes me continue to wonder why we don't run more offense for him when the guards are struggling. I mean, doesn't it just make sense?
-- It was nice to see the free throws falling again after we'd been shaky the last few games. D.J. Richardson, Myke Henry, Nnanna Egwu and Tracy Abrams were a combined 12-for-12 from the line.
-- Kevin Berardini did not get a field goal attempt. :(
Points per possession: 1.12
Turnover rate: 13.9%
Free throw rate: 32.7%
Points per possession: 1.04
Turnover rate: 14.5%
Free throw rate: 16.4%