Just when you thought the Illinois basketball team had Nebraska on the ropes, the Cornhuskers started swinging.
I thought the Illini were going to cruise to a solid victory on Sunday night. Up 72-62 in the final few minutes, things seemed to be leaning heavily in favor of the Orange and Blue. That is when the game started to fall apart.
Nebraska didn't have to do much. Illinois started to take bad shots. We then compiled the bad shots with careless turnovers. One thing led to another, and just like that, we were going to overtime against the Cornhuskers.
Thankfully, Illinois forged ahead in the overtime period. We started to play smarter basketball, and a big steal toward the end sealed the game. Illinois managed to beat Nebraska, 87-84.
Here are five crucial observations from the Illinois basketball win over Nebraska
1. Illinois survived the random big game
These types of games happen every season. Illinois takes on an opponent that has a player go bananas. A big game by an opposing player usually means a defeat because they are hot.
On Sunday night, the Illini ran into an opposing team’s player who went off. Nebraska put up an 84-spot thanks to overtime, but the only reason they were able to climb that high in points was due to Keisei Tominaga going off.
Tominaga is a player who is averaging 13.9 points on the season and hitting his three-pointers at a clip of 37.9%. That is a good number, but it isn’t anything that blows me away.
Entering the Illinois game, Tominaga’s season-high was 28 points against Indiana back in early January. His previous career high was nearly a year to the day, February 5, 2023, against Penn State when he dropped 30 points.
Who knew we were all about to see a career game out of Tominaga? Well, we did and it was incredible. The kid couldn’t miss. Illinois was playing pretty solid defense against him, but he was chucking up three-pointers and they were falling.
Tominaga finished the game with a career-high 31 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field and 5-of-7 from three-point range. He also made all eight of his free throws.
This type of huge game usually will doom teams. Illinois fought through it, though. The fact the Illini can take the punches we did on Sunday night and still come out victorious shows the strength of this team. Tominaga had a career game, but Illinois didn’t let him play spoiler to a big Big Ten win.