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Nebrasketball: Illinois Fighting Illini Preview

Nebraska returns to Lincoln for a big matchup and a chance to really jump in Big Ten standings

NCAA Basketball: Bethune-Cookman at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Nebraska Cornhuskers return to Lincoln to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini tonight at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The game marks the first home court advantage for the Huskers in 2023, having last hosted the Iowa Hawkeyes in a 66-50 blowout victory on Dec. 29, 2022.

The Huskers are clicking of late with a 2-1 mark in Big Ten action since league play resumed, including the program’s first ever overtime road win in the Big Ten and first in a conference matchup since Feb. 17, 2001. That victory came Saturday at Minnesota in an 81-79 thriller.

Meanwhile, Illinois has been struggling big time of late with just one win over a power conference team since Dec. 6, coming against then No. 14 Wisconsin on Saturday. Prior to that, the Illini were 0-3 since defeating then No. 2 Texas on Dec. 6. Despite those struggles, Illinois is receiving votes in both the Coaches and AP polls this week. The Illini sit at the top of those receiving votes in the Coaches with 50 votes and also received 13 votes in the AP.

Brad Underwood has surpassed the half decade mark in Champaign-Urbana as he leads the Illini for the sixth year this season. Underwood previously coached at Oklahoma State and Stephen F. Austin before taking the head job at Illinois and going 23-10 and winning a share of the Big Ten regular-season title last year. That victory marked the second in the past two seasons if using a fair way to determine the 2021 Big Ten title instead of the fraudulent means by which the league awarded the regular season title solely to Michigan that year.

The Illinois roster is very different looking this season as the team replaced all five-starters from last year - including multi-year standouts Kofi Cockburn and Trent Frazier - and six of its top scorers. The Illini had a fast start to the season, winning six of its first seven games, including a victory over UCLA. The team has fallen on hard times of late as an eight-game stretch has followed with alternating wins and losses. Still, that resume to date includes a neutral court win over Texas and a home victory over Wisconsin as already mentioned above.

Three of the Illini’s top scorers are Big 12 transfers this season. Terrence Shannon leads Illinois with 17.6 points per game. Dain Dainja (10.1ppg) and Matthew Meyer (10.0ppg), both transfers out of Baylor, average double figures as well. Coleman Hawkins is the other player averaging double figures in scoring, also scoring 10.0 ppg after he scored 20 against Wisconsin.

Illinois leads the all-time series 19-8 over Nebraska dating back to 1921. The Huskers are 6-12 against the Illini as league foes. Illinois was won the past five straight in the series, though. Tuesday’s game marks the first of two against the Illini in Big Ten play this season with the Huskers heading to Illinois the end of this month. UNL is 4-3 against Illinois at Pinnacle Bank Arena as well.

For fans hoping for a great time watching the Huskers play Tuesday night, there should be small improvements to concessions stands according to athletic director Trev Alberts who issued the below plans for improving wait times.

  • Open additional stands by streamlining the menus and taking alcohol out of one or two concession stands. These stands would be specifically for food and non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Hire additional staff at premium wages to allow Pinnacle Bank Arena to increase the number of concessions locations.
  • Reduce the age for workers selling non-alcoholic products from 19 to 16.*
  • Wrist banding stations separate from the concession stands for patrons who wish to purchase alcohol. The wrist banding stations will be staffed with proper security personnel.
  • Provide additional locations for purchasing beer by limiting outlets for mixed drinks.
  • Individuals interested in concessions employment opportunities at PBA, can visit

*Nebraska is one of just six states that sets the age for serving alcohol at 19.

A win over Illinois would move Nebraska to .500 in conference play and, as the standings currently sit at time of publication, would put Nebraska in sole possession of seventh place regardless of the outcome of No. 18 Wisconsin at Michigan State earlier Tuesday. A loss would plummet UNL to No. 13 in the standings.

  • When: Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 8:00 p.m. CT/9:00 ET
  • Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena (15,000) - Lincoln, Nebraska
  • TV: Big Ten Network, streaming via FOX Sports App
  • Announcers: Kevin Kugler (play-by-play), Shon Morris (analyst)
  • Radio: Huskers Radio Network; Kent Pavelka (play-by-play), Jake Muhleisen (analyst)
  • 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 and the Huskers app.
    The pregame broadcast with Pavelka and Muhleisen begins one hour before tipoff.
  • Betting Odds: Nebraska is a 3-point underdog with the Over/Under set at 135.5 according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

Illinois No. 32 in KenPom
2022-23 Record: 10-5 (1-3)
Head Coach: Brad Underwood
Record at ILL: 104-71 (6th year)
Career Record: 213-98 (10th year)

Nebraska No. 85 in KenPom
2022-23 Record: 9-7 (2-3)
Head Coach: Fred Hoiberg
Record at Nebraska: 33-74 (4th year)
Career Record: 148-130 (9th year)