Junior guard James Palmer Jr. hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds left to lift Nebraska to a dramatic 64-63 victory over Illinois on Monday in Big Ten play at Lincoln, Neb.
Palmer’s clutch shot came after Illinois junior forward Michael Finke converted a four-point play with 8.1 seconds left to give the Fighting Illini a two-point lead. The Cornhuskers got the ball to Palmer on the left wing and he swished the 3-pointer to cap off his game-high 24-point scoring effort.
Senior guard Evan Taylor added 13 points as Nebraska (13-7, 4-3) improved to 10-1 at home. Nebraska shot 41.2 percent from the field but was just 5-of-23 from 3-point range.
“I would rather be lucky than good so I’ll take it,” Cornhuskers coach Tim Miles said in a postgame interview on the Big Ten Network.
Freshman guard Trent Frazier scored 19 points to pace Illinois (10-9, 0-6), which lost its fourth consecutive contest. Finke recorded 16 points and 10 rebounds and junior forward Leron Black added 11 points as the Illini lost their eighth straight conference game dating back to last season.
The Illini posted a 46-29 rebounding advantage with 18 of the boards coming on the offensive end. Illinois shot just 39 percent from the field.
A putback by Black pulled Illinois within 59-57 with 2:14 to play. But freshman guard Da’Monte Williams turned the ball over while being double-teamed and Palmer picked up the ball and sped for the hoop that gave Nebraska a four-point edge with 1:02 to go.
Finke scored on the inside to get the Illini within 61-59 with 32.6 seconds to play. Palmer missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 23.8 seconds left and Illinois appeared in good shape after Finke’s clutch shot before Palmer answered it.
Williams hit two free throws to cap a half-opening 10-2 spurt to give Illinois a 40-34 lead with 15:42 remaining before the Cornhuskers took over and made six consecutive shots during a 14-0 run.
Taylor’s layup tied the score at 40 and junior guard Glynn Watson Jr. hit a jumper as Nebraska inched ahead. Watson later knocked down a 3-pointer to culminate the run and give the Cornhuskers a 48-40 lead before Frazier’s basket ended the Illini’s scoring drought of 5:11.
—Field Level Media