5 epic observations from the Illinois basketball win over Nebraska

Illinois basketball was on the brink of elimination early on the game on Saturday, but a legendary performance propelled the Illini to a huge Big Ten Tournament win.
Mar 16, 2024; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Terrence Shannon Jr. (0) and
Mar 16, 2024; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Terrence Shannon Jr. (0) and / Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
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4. The Illini defense was clutch in the second half

What a disastrous first half of basketball. Illinois’ defense looked like garbage. We couldn’t stop anything Nebraska was doing, and they were hitting shots at an insane rate.

In the first half, the Cornhuskers shot 57.6% from the field and 37.5% from three-point range. This charge was led by Rienk Mast, who started the game with a furry. He was incredible, hitting shots from three-point range and there was nothing Illinois could do about it.

Illinois went into the halftime locker room down 11 points, and that is when Brad Underwood and the Illini coaching staff made adjustments. We came out in the second half and looked like a completely different team defensively.

The Illini gave up 51 points in the first half but only surrendered 36 points in the final 20 minutes of action. What was the biggest change in the Nebraska offense? Mast.

Mast was 5-of-9 from the field and 3-of-5 from three-point range for 13 points in the first half. Illinois’ adjustments focused more on Mast in the second half and not letting him get free on the perimeter. The result was Mast going 0-of-6 from the field and 0-of-3 from three-point range for two points.

I was blown away by the defensive effort in the second half. Illinois didn’t let Nebraska get loose on the outside, and this affected them greatly. Going from shooting 37.5% from three-point range as a team in the first half to shooting 18.2% in the second half is a massive change in offense. Kudos to the Illinois coaching staff and players.