Illinois’ NCAA Tournament hopes may be on life support, but the Illini kept breathing with a 73-57 victory over Nebraska on Sunday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln.
Malcolm Hill scored a game-high 19 points, which included four 3-pointers and going 6-for-11 from the field.
How it happened
Illinois (17-12, 7-9 Big Ten) dominated the second half, using a 9-2 run to create separation after holding a 30-28 advantage at halftime.
The Illini did a lot of damage from long range, hitting 13 of 26 3-pointers, including seven after the break. Hill and Tracy Abrams combined to make 8 of 11 attempts from behind the arc.
Meanwhile, Nebraska (12-15, 6-9) shot just 37 percent from the field and hit only 4 of 15 3-point attempts.
What it means
Illinois kept alive its slim hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Illini have won four out of their past five games with two remaining before the Big Ten Tournament.
The biggest hurdle for Illinois will be its lack of quality wins. It has beaten four teams inside the RPI top 50, with two of those coming against Northwestern. The Illini close the regular season Wednesday against Michigan State and Saturday at Rutgers.
Illini coach John Groce is trying to escape the hot seat. After making the NCAA tourney in his first season (2012-13), Illinois has yet to return.
Hill led a trio of Illini in double figures (joining Abrams and Maverick Morgan) and passed Cory Bradford for fifth on the Illinois all-time scoring list. He needs 12 points to overtake Brian Cook for fourth and 76 to surpass Dee Brown.
— Illini Basketball (@IlliniMBB) February 27, 2017
Everyone who took the floor for Nebraska. Huskers point guard Tai Webster finished with 17 points but made only 6 of 15 field-goal attempts and was just 1 for 5 from beyond the arc. His fellow starters combined for 18 points, and Nebraska committed 18 turnovers.
Who is next
Nebraska heads to Minnesota on Thursday before closing the regular season against Michigan on Sunday in Lincoln.