James Palmer Jr. scored 23 points and Isaac Copeland added 16 and Nebraska remained perfect at home, defeating Illinois 75-60 on Sunday afternoon at Lincoln, Neb., in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
Palmer struggled from the field, making only 4 of 12 attempts, but he connected on 12 of 14 free throws to go along with three rebounds and four assists.
Nebraska’s Glynn Watson Jr., plagued with foul trouble throughout most of the second half, added 14 points, six rebounds and three assists.
The most important basket might have come from Isaiah Roby, who capped a 7-0 run with a thunderous dunk to give Nebraska a 70-53 lead with 3:33 left.
Giorgi Bezhanishvili led Illinois with 14 points, Kipper Nichols added 12 and Ayo Dosunmu had 10.
Nebraska (7-1, 1-0 Big Ten), which last played on Nov. 26, defeating Clemson on the road, won its third consecutive game.
Illinois (2-6, 0-1) has lost two straight, having dropped a heartbreaker at Notre Dame on Tuesday.
The Fighting Illini made only nine field goals in the first half. Illinois, one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country at 40 percent, connected on only 3 of 9 in the first half. They made 6 of 15 overall from long range, matching their season rate.
Despite not being able to get their offense untracked, Illinois trailed only 25-20 before Nebraska closed the half on a 14-3 run to take command.
Illinois came out in the second half and held the Cornhuskers scoreless for more than two minutes. Just under the 17-minute mark, the Illini had whittled the deficit to 10 on a layup by Bezhanishvili.
Nebraska soon opened the lead to 13 before the Illini climbed within nine.
With just over five minutes to go, Illinois trailed 60-51 until Watson connected on a 3-point jumper. Bezhanishvili’s basket gave Illinois one last gasp, but Palmer’s two free throws and Copeland’s 3-point jumper sealed the win for Nebraska.
The Huskers dominated from the free-throw line, connecting on 25 of 30 attempts. Illinois made 8 of 13.
—Field Level Media