It's been a year of close calls for the Nebraska (13-16, 4-12) men's basketball team. Today's matchup with the Illinois Fighting Illini (21-9, 8-8) turned out to be one where the Huskers, once again, left without the cigar in what might have been the Huskers finest effort of the year.
With the Illini hosting their senior day celebration, most expected a result similar to what happened when Illinois ran circles around the Huskers in Lincoln en-route to a 20 point shellacking of NU The Huskers, however came out with a hot shooting duo. Dylan Talley and Ray Gallegos both were splashing the nets from the tip. Both had 11 points at halftime and both topped 20 points for the game.
Neither team was ever able to take control of this game. Illinois did hold a seven point lead early in the first half, but a Gallegos three on the next possession ended those hopes of an early Illini knock out punch, something the Huskers were not able to come up with Tuesday night vs. Wisconsin. The Huskers hit several big crowd quieting shots throughout the game, but it was the little things that did the Huskers in and is separating the Huskers from their opponents in games such as this.
"I thought we just missed some easy shots, a missed layup and a dunk." head coach Tim Miles said in his post game radio appearance. "So, now instead of playing with a little bit of a lead, getting them to panic, they're playing with a lead and make a run. It's disappointing."
The Huskers had opportunities throughout the second half to make the outcome of this game much different than what it ended up being. The Huskers didn't just miss a dunk and a layup, they in fact missed three layups, a dunk and took two of the ugliest three point attempts of the season, all within a stretch where the Huskers led, were tied or within three.
During the decisive final three minutes of the game, after Gallegos hit a big three point shot to cut the Illinois lead to 65-62, the Huskers did not score again until a Shavon Shields three with 9 seconds left after the game was basically decided. Illinois, who had been inconsistent all night defensively, put the clamps on the Huskers down the stretch and hit some pretty big shots of their own.
It was the usual suspects for Illinois vs. the Huskers. D.J. Richardson hit a big three from the corner in front of the Illinois bench to give the a 60-57 lead they would not relinquish and Brandon Paul hit a circus, scooping layup to give Illinois the points that would end up being the winning basket.
The Huskers, now riding a two game losing streak head home for the final time Wednesday night. They will look to close out the Bob Devaney Sports Center era of Nebrasketball in style vs. Minnesota. Tip off is set for 8 pm.