All good things must come to an end. Fortunately, it was just a winning streak, and not their tournament hopes.
On a rough night shooting for the Huskers sophomore trio, the Huskers saw their five game winning streak come to a halt. The Illini used relentless perimeter pressure to force the Huskers into 14 turnovers and kept them from getting out in transition like they've done so effectively during this stretch. When they did get their opportunities, they failed to convert them. It was a rare off for the Husker star, Terran Petteway who finished 5-18 from the floor, while still leading the team in points with 13.
The Illini, on the other hand, shot well from behind the arc. The 11th place 3 point shooting team in the conference coming into the game connected nine times from 3. Combined with nearly triple the free throw attempts the Huskers had despite making more total field goals for the game, were the difference in the outcome. NU, who averaged 22 attempts per game from the free throw line were only able to get there seven times.
The Huskers had their opportunities to get back into the game. The Huskers were kept in the game by lesser relied on players Benny Parker, David Rivers and Leslee Smith combined for 17 of the Huskers 24 first half points. Only trailing by three at the break, they tallied four quick points to start the half and take the lead, but they would never get it again. With the score 38-37 Illinois after a layup from Smith, they blitzed the Huskers for a 12-0 run. NU was not able to recover and never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.
The Huskers loss is a blow to the mounting excitement around the program during this streak. However, it does not by any means kill their hopes ad gaining entry into the years tournament. It does make the margin of error a little thinner, but with two more home games including one vs. Wisconsin, who is likely to be a top ten RPI team when they come into town, opportunities to play into the tournament remain. The Huskers started their streak with a win over Northwestern on February 8. They'll get an opportunity start another when those same Wildcats visit Pinnacle Bank Arena in what is all but a must-win for NU if they want to start another streak and resume their quest for a ticket to the dance.