The Illinois Fighting Illini defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 72-65, on Senior Day at Assembly Hall on Saturday.
The week preceding Saturday’s match-up was a restful one for the Fighting Illini. In his press conference this week, head coach John Groce mentioned that the team took some days off physically and a full day off completely coming into this contest. In the end, the rest seemed to help Illinois.
Senior Day wasn’t just “sunshines and lollipops” for Illinois. With just over 6 minutes left in the game, the Cornhuskers led the Illini, 57-55. However, D.J. Richardson sparked the Illini to a 7-0 run by hitting a huge three-pointer. Illinois never looked back in order to get the big Senior Day victory.
There were five players to score double-figures for the Fighting Illini on Saturday. These players were Tracy Abrams, D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul, Myke Henry, and Nnanna Egwu.
Abrams did not start on Senior Day, but still led the team in scoring for the Illinois Fighting Illini. He went 4-of-11 from the field, 2-5 from beyond the arc, 6-of-6 from the foul line, and scored 16 points.
On Saturday, Groce started four out of Illinois’ five seniors. This is definitely a class act for any head coach to do. The seniors that started were Tyler Griffey, Sam McLaurin, Brandon Paul, and D.J. Richardson.
The two seniors that shined on Saturday for Illinois were D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul.
Richardson went 4-of-9 from the field, 3-of-6 from three-point land, and scored 13 points. Paul shot 6-of-14 from the field, but struggled from beyond the arc going 1-of-7.
On the other side, the Cornhuskers only had two players score double-digits in Saturday’s game.
Ray Gallegos led all scorers in the game with 23 points while Dylan Talley scored 20 points. After Gallegos and Talley, the next highest scorer for Nebraska was Shavon Shields, who scored nine points.
Saturday’s game was the definition of a “must-win” game for the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Illinois is a team that “should” be in the NCAA Tournament. However, a costly bad loss can KILL any teams tournament resume.
Right now, Joe Lunardi of ESPN has the Fighting Illini projected as the 10th seed in the South Region. They were originally a projected 8th seed before their last loss to #7 Michigan and needed to do some resume work starting against Nebraska.
These last two conference games will also tell where the Illini will be seeded in the Big Ten Conference Tournament. Illinois is currently sitting 6th in the Big Ten.
Illinois would lock up the 6th or 7th seed with a win over the Hawkeyes on Tuesday. After that, they would need a win over Ohio State or one Minnesota loss to stay 6th in the conference.
If the standings stay right where they are today, Illinois would play Northwestern on the first day of the Big Ten Conference Tournament.
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