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Nebrasketball: No. 25/24 Illinois Fighting Illini Preview

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Notre Dame v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Nebraska Cornhuskers are back at Pinnacle Bank Arena for the first time in nine days as the No. 25/24 Illinois Fighting Illini visit Lincoln. Illinois moved into both the AP Poll top-25 this week at No. 25 and the Coaches Poll top-25 at No. 24.

The team was previously ranked as high as No. 10 in the AP Week Two poll before falling out in Week Four. Illinois was also as high as No. 10 in the preseason Coaches Poll before dropping out on Nov. 29, 2021.

The Huskers enter the game on a one game on a three-game losing streak after losses to two ranked teams and a road loss at Rutgers. The losses moved the team to 6-10 on the season (0-5 in Big Ten action). Illinois got off to a rocky start on the season due to suspensions and injuries but is quickly climbing the ranks as the team just jumped into the AP and Coaches Poll top-25 rankings ahead of the game. Illinois holds a four game win streak entering tomorrow night’s matchup and sits at No. 25 in the AP and No. 24 in the Coaches while boasting an 11-3 overall record, and are 4-0 in the Big Ten.

Last year, the Illini went 24-7, won the Big Ten Conference Tournament title, arguably won the Big Ten regular season title despite the league office decision to award the banner to Michigan, and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament before being upset in the second round by Loyola-Chicago.

Despite losing All-American and NBA draft pick Ayo Dosunmu whose jersey was retired last Thursday during a ceremony for the Jan. 6 home matchup against Maryland, Illinois brings back a veteran squad led by preseason All-American Kofi Cockburn and fifth-year senior Trent Frazier.

Illinois started 2-2, as Cockburn missed the first three games due to a NCAA suspension, but has won 9-of-10 with the only loss being a four-point setback to Arizona on Dec. 11. The Illini have won all four games since that loss by double figures.

Illinois is shooting 47 percent from the field, including 39 percent from the three-point arc, while averaging 10 three-pointers a game. Cockburn paces the attack by averaging 22.5 points on 62 percent shooting and 12.5 rebounds per game. Against Maryland last Thursday, he had 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting and 18 rebounds. During Illinois’ four-game win streak, Cockburn is averaging 24.5 points and 13.3 rebounds per game.

Utah transfer Alfonso Plummer is averaging 16.4 ppg, while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range. Jacob Grandison (12.1 ppg) and Trent Frazier (11.5 ppg) are also high scoring shooters from outside for the Illini as well, rounding out players averaging double figures.

Tomorrow’s game marks the 27th all-time meeting between the two programs in a series that dates back to 1921. It will be the 18th meeting between the programs as members of the Big Ten. Illinois leads the all-time series 18-8 (11-6 in Big Ten action), and is riding a four-game win streak in the series heading into tomorrow’s game. The Huskers are 4-2 against Illinois in games played in Pinnacle Bank Arena, however.


When: Tuesday, Jan. 11 at 7:30 p.m. CST/8:30 p.m. EST
Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena (15,000) - Lincoln, Nebraska

TV: Big Ten Network
Streaming: FOXSports.com/FOX Sports App
Announcers: Jeff Levering (play-by-play), Brian Butch (analyst)

Radio: Huskers Radio Network
Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka
Analyst: Jake Muhleisen

Broadcast Stations: KLIN (1400 AM) in Lincoln, KKCD (105.9 FM) in Omaha, KHYY (106.9 FM) in Scottsbluff, and KAMI (1580 AM) in Lexington
Also available on Huskers.com and the Huskers app.

Line: Tallysight favors Illinois -13.5.


Illinois Fighting Illini
2021-22 Record: 11-3 (4-0 Big Ten)
Head Coach: Brad Underwood
Record at Illinois: 82-59 (5th year)
Career Record: 190-86 (9th year)

Nebraska
2021-22 Record: 6-10 (0-5 Big Ten)
Head Coach: Fred Hoiberg
Record at Nebraska: 20-55 (3rd year)
Career Record: 135-111 (8th year)