5 crucial observations from the Illinois basketball win over Nebraska

Feb 4, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini forward Ty Rodgers (20) reacts
Feb 4, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Ty Rodgers (20) reacts / Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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4. Illinois dealt with a lot of self-inflicted wounds

I kind of want to piggyback off the previous slide. Nebraska didn’t play a crazy great game. They were efficient from the free throw line and a couple of players had big games. But this game should have easily been a win for Illinois, but we couldn’t get out of our own way.

At the end of the last slide, I touched on how the Illini settled throughout the game, and this killed us at the end of regulation. This wasn’t the only way Illinois shot ourselves in the foot.

Free throws were a big issue for the Illini. Coming into the game, Illinois was an above-average free throw shooting team, hitting 72.6% of free throws this season, which ranked No. 140 in the country. We were only able to make 20-of-30 against Nebraska, though. All we had to do was make 21-of-30 and this game was over. We can’t blame someone like Dain Dainja either. He only had one attempt on the night.

Terrence Shannon Jr. went 3-of-6 from the charity stripe. Ty Rodgers was 2-of-4 from the free throw line. And Marcus Domask, while he only missed one, it was a free throw that would have sealed the game in regulation.

And then you have the key turnovers late in the game. With Illinois up 72-69 in regulation, Shannon held onto the ball and then had a horrible turnover with under a minute to go. This led to two free throws for the Cornhuskers. Justin Harmon then had a big turnover with Illinois up one. This turnover ended up giving Nebraska the lead, 73-72.

Settling for bad shots, not converting at the free throw line, and not taking care of the ball late in the game all caused Nebraska to take this game into overtime. Even with all of those bad things going on, Illinois still ended up winning the game. That is crazy.