Career night for Illini's Richardson
LINCOLN, Neb. – D.J. Richardson scored a career-high 30 points, Brandon Paul added 14 and Illinois ended a three-game losing streak with a 71-51 victory over Nebraska on Tuesday.
Illinois (15-5, 2-4 Big Ten) held Nebraska without a field goal for the last 8:51 of the first half and led 35-23 at the break.
The Huskers got no closer than six points the rest of the way.
Dylan Talley had 16 points and Brandon Ubel added 10 for the Cornhuskers (10-10, 1-6).
John Groce, in his first year at Illinois, recorded his 100th win in five seasons as a head coach.
The Illini shot 45 percent and committed 14 turnovers, but they had more offensive rebounds (12) than Nebraska had total rebounds (10) in the first half and finished with a 40-28 advantage on the boards.
Nebraska was 2 of 14 on 3s and shot 32 percent for the game.
Andre Almeida scored to trim Illinois’ lead to six points with 13 minutes left, but Paul converted a three-point play and made two more free throws to make it 49-38.
Two Richardson free throws upped the Illini lead to 11 points before Talley’s 3 and David Rivers’ lay-in cut it to 51-44 and forced Groce to call timeout.
The game got away from Nebraska at that point. Almeida was whistled for fouling Paul after the timeout, prompting howls from the crowd, and Paul made the free throws.
Richardson followed with a 3-pointer, and while Nebraska was huddled in a timeout, the Huskers were assessed a bench technical.
Richardson made the free throws to make it 58-44 with 7:26 left.
The 6-foot-11 Nnanna Egwu blocked two of Ubel’s shots and had 10 rebounds to go with eight points. Joseph Bertrand had a career-high five steals for the Illini.
Freshman Shavon Shields, who scored a career-best 29 points on 10-of-11 shooting against Penn State, committed his fourth foul 2 minutes into the second half and didn’t score until he made a free throw with 11:16 left.
Shields, who had averaged 13 points and 6.8 rebounds his previous five games, missed both his field goals and had two points in 21 minutes before fouling out with 5:13 to play.
Illinois endured one of its most embarrassing defeats in its previous visit to Lincoln. The Illini were outscored 36-4 over portions of the first and second halves Feb. 18 on their way to an 80-57 loss to a poor Nebraska team that ended up firing its coach, Doc Sadler, after the season. The performance prompted some Illinois players to weep on the bench and in the locker room and sealed the firing of Bruce Weber.
Illinois continued to struggle with its 3-point shooting, making 7 of 22. The Illini averaged a nation-leading 10.8 3s a game in December but have made just 15 of 80 in their last four games.