Kipper Nichols, defense lead Illini over Huskers, 71-64

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Kipper Nichols scored 18 points and the Illinois defense clamped down to lead the Fighting Illini to a 71-64 win over Nebraska Saturday at State Farm Center. It was the Cornhuskers’ fifth straight defeat. 

Ayo Dosunmu added 13 points and Trent Frazier scored 11 for Illinois (7-15, 3-8 Big Ten).

The Huskers were cold from the field all afternoon, hitting 25 of 70 for 36 percent, compared to Illinois’ 27 of 56 shooting for 48 percent.

Illinois lead by as many as 15 points late in the game, but Nebraska pulled within nine points before Illinois held on the for the win.

The Illini kept pace with the Huskers the first half, after jumping out to a 7-0 lead. The final five minutes of the half saw Frazier and Nichols take over for the Illinois offense. Frazier hit two 3-pointers and Nichols one to give Illinois a 38-29 lead at the half.

The Huskers seemed out of sync from the opening tip and shot only 32 percent from the field the first half, compared to 47 percent for Illinois.

Illinois made 9-of-23 free throws (39 percent), its worst free-throw percentage since a 2012 win over Georgia Tech.

Nebraska shot 11-of-21 from the line (52 percent).

James Palmer Jr. scored a game-high 22 points for Nebraska (13-9, 3-8), while Thomas Allen added 11. The Huskers are without second-leading scorer Isaac Copeland, who averaged 14 points per game, due a torn ACL.

Up Next: The Fighting Illini continue their three-game homestand on Tuesday when No. 6 Michigan State comes to State Farm Center (6 pm CT on ESPN2). 

ILLINOIS POSTGAME NOTES

Team Notes

• Saturday’s game marked the 23rd all-time meeting between Illinois and Nebraska, with the Illini leading the all-time series, 15-8. The Illini are 10-2 all-time against Nebraska at home.

• The teams split the season series 1-1. Nebraska beat the Illini 75-60 in Lincoln in December. The Illini beat the Huskers 72-66 at the State Farm Center last season.

• The Illinois offense got off to a strong start, opening the game on a 7-0 run on its way to a 38-29 halftime lead.  

• Illinois held Nebraska to just 3-23 (13%) from three, its lowest three-point percentage since Nov. 24, 2015 when the Huskers shot 10.5 percent (2-19) against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

• Illinois led for the final 29:05 of the game, by at least seven points the entire second half, and as many as 15 (44-29 at 16:57 of second half). 

• The Illini held a 36-4 edge in bench points, led by Kipper Nichols’ 18 points. 

Individual Notes

• Junior Kipper Nichols tied a season-high with 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting, breaking out of a five-game scoreless slump. He also led the team with six rebounds and hit 2-of-3 from behind the arc after after making just one of his last 22 attempts from downtown dating back to December 15. 

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