Husker men look to knock off No. 5 Illinois

The Nebraska men's basketball team faces its eighth ranked team of the season, as the Huskers travel to Champaign, Ill., to take on No. 5 Illinois on Thursday night.
Teddy Allen's Historic 41 Point Performance

LINCOLN, Neb. (Husker Athletics) — The Nebraska men’s basketball team faces its eighth ranked team of the season, as the Huskers travel to Champaign, Ill., to take on No. 5 Illinois on Thursday night. Tipoff between the Huskers and Fighting Illini is set for shortly after 6 p.m.  Thursday’s game will be televised on BTN with Brandon Gaudin and Stephen Bardo on the call. The game can also be streamed via the web, smartphones, tablets and connected devices through the Fox Sports app.

Fans can follow all of the action across the state of Nebraska on the Learfield IMG College Husker Sports Network with Kent Pavelka and Jake Muhleisen on the call. The game will also be available on Huskers.com, the Huskers app and TuneIn radio. The pregame show begins one hour prior to tipoff.

Thursday’s game continues a stretch of four games in eight days that began with the 86-83 loss to Penn State. Following Thursday, the Huskers will host Minnesota on Senior Night on Saturday before taking on Rutgers on Monday.

The Huskers (5-16, 1-13 Big Ten) could not capitalize on a career night from Teddy Allen, falling to Penn State on Tuesday night. Allen carried the Husker attack, posting a career-high 41 points on 16-of-24 shooting, as well as eight rebounds and eight assists. Allen scored 28 first-half points, setting a school record, to send the Huskers into the locker room trailing 39-38.  Nebraska rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit to pull even at 70 with 6:20 remaining, but could not complete the comeback. Trailing by three, the Huskers had a chance to send the game into overtime, but Trey McGowens, who scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half, missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds. Nebraska shot 54 percent from the field, including 12-of-25 from 3-point range, but Penn State hit 14 3-pointers and took advantage of 18 Husker turnovers and turned them into 25 points.

Illinois (16-6, 12-4) saw its seven-game winning streak snapped with an 81-72 loss to Michigan State on Tuesday night. The Illini were held to 40 percent shooting, while Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn were held to a combined 30 points, nearly 10 points under their season average. Trent Frazier led Illinois with 22 points, including four 3-pointers, as the Illini shot just 5-of-17 from beyond the arc. Aaron Henry had 20 points, while Joshua Langford had 13 points and 16 rebounds for MSU, which led by as many as 19 in the second half before Illinois rallied in the second half.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT
Teddy Allen is one of only three Big Ten players to have a 40-point game over the last four seasons following his 41-point night against Penn State, joining Purdue’s Carsen Edwards (three times) and Iowa’s Luka Garza (twice).

NUMBERS TO KNOW
.378 – The Huskers have made steady shooting improvement from 3-point range since returning from their pause. NU shot .234 in the first three games after returning from its pause, but is shooting .378 over the last six games dating back to Feb. 12. NU has knocked down at least eight 3-pointers in each of the last four games.

4 – According to KenPom, the Huskers’ strength of schedule ranks fourth nationally as of Feb. 23.

5 – Nebraska has five games with at least 10 steals this season after having just two in 2019-20. NU is third in the Big Ten with 7.3 steals per game.

10 – NU has ten 20-point performances on the season (Teddy Allen-8; Trey McGowens-1; Kobe Webster-1). In addition, NU has had nine players reach double figures at least once this season and nearly had a 10th as Thorir Thorbjarnarson had nine points in Saturday’s loss to Purdue.

34 – Nebraska is 34th nationally in tempo according to KenPom as of Feb. 23. The Huskers and Illinois (93rd) are the only two Big Ten teams in the top-100 nationally in tempo as of Feb. 23.

SCOUTING ILLINOIS
Brad Underwood is in his fourth year at Illinois after previous coaching stops at Oklahoma State and Stephen F. Austin. After winning 26 games in his first two seasons, the Illini went 21-10 and finished fourth in the Big Ten in 2019-2020. Before taking the Illinois job, Underwood guided Oklahoma State to a 20-13 record and a berth in the 2017 NCAA Tournament in his only season in Stillwater.

The Fighting Illini won four of their first five games to open the season, including a 15-point win at then No. 10 Duke on Dec. 8. The Illini went 4-2 in non-conference action with the losses coming against No. 2 Baylor at the Jimmy V Classic and a three-point loss at Missouri. In Big Ten play, Illinois won five of their first six games, with the only setback being a three-point loss at Rutgers, before back-to-back home losses to Maryland and Ohio State in mid-January. Since then, Illinois has rolled off seven straight wins before Tuesday’s loss at Michigan State.

Illinois returned four starters and eight letterwinners from a season ago,  highlighted by All-Big Ten performer Ayo Dosunmu and Big Ten Freshman of the Year Kofi Cockburn.  Dosunmu is putting together an All-American-type season averaging 21.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game and is making a strong push for Big Ten Player of the Year. He leads the nation with a pair of triple doubles, including one at Minnesota last Saturday.  Cockburn averages 17.4 points per game on 67 percent shooting, 10.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. He leads the Big Ten in rebounding and has 15 double-doubles on the year. Trent Frazier is Illinois’ third double-figure scorer, as he averages 10.8 points per game including 40 percent from 3-point range. Illinois has six players averaging at least 5.6 points per game and shoots 50 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point range.

Series History: Illinois leads the all-time series, 17-8, over Nebraska in a series that dates back to 1921. Nebraska is 6-10 against Illinois since joining the Big Ten. Nebraska has won once in the State Farm Center since joining the Big Ten, a 78-67 win during the 2015-16 season. Prior to Nebraska joining the conference in 2011-12, the Huskers and Illini had played only once since 1976 – a 100-73 Husker victory in the 1990 San Juan Shootout.

Last Meeting: The Huskers had several chances to knock off sixth-ranked Illinois, but the Fighting Illini prevailed 77-72, in overtime on Feb. 12.  The Huskers erased a 56-52 deficit with a 9-0 run and eventually took a 64-58 lead after Lat Mayen’s 3-pointer with 2:55 remaining before Ayo Dosunmu scored 10 of his game-high 31 points in the final 2:34 of regulation, including the tying basket with 23 seconds remaining.

Nebraska, which took a 66-64 lead with Dalano Banton’s basket with 37.8 seconds left, called timeout with 16 seconds left to set up the potential go-ahead basket, but could not pull out the win in regulation.
Dosunmo got Illinois going in the extra session, scoring the first five points as the Illini never trailed in overtime. Nebraska cut the deficit to 72-70 on a pair of Teddy Allen free throws with 1:37 left, but could get no closer, as Dosunmu’s jumper with 15 seconds left iced the win.

Mayen finished with a career-high 16 points to lead three Huskers in double figures, as Trey McGowens and Allen chipped in 15 apiece. In addition to Dosunmu, Kofi Cockburn had 21 points and 13 rebounds, but the Huskers held Illinois to 48 percent shooting, including 33 percent from 3-point range, an enjoyed a 40-39 lead on the glass.

Categories: Husker Sports, Sports