The Illinois Fighting Illini head to Lincoln tonight to take on the struggling Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Illini have fallen on some hard times of late and look to snap their three-game losing streak while Nebraska is looking to make it back-to-back wins for the first time since Big Ten play started. Both teams come in, however, with the same number of conference wins–one.
Nebraska is back at home after taking on Big Ten powers Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State on the road (they’ve played Wisconsin and Purdue at home). Whether it home or away, the Huskers have struggled mightily scoring–329th in Division I with 58.6 points per game. They’re led by Ray Gallegos‘ 13.2 per game despite shooting only 39%. The rest of the Huskers aren’t shooting much better–as a team they shoot only 41.4% from the floor. They struggle rebounding and don’t have a bona fide point guard to run the offense but will lean on guard Dylan Talley at the one–Talley has a 6-to-1 assist to turnover ratio over the past four games.
Not much has gone right for Nebraska since a 4-0 start to the season–they’ve gone 6-9 and come in to tonight’s game with Illinois at 10-9. Reigning Big Ten Freshman-of-the-Week Shavon Shields has provided a spark lately, as he averaged 23.5 points, 7 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game last week. He’ll need to bring his A-game if the Huskers expect to win tonight.
The Fighting Illini cracked the AP Top 25 in week four after their 7-0 start and climbed as high as No. 10 before falling out of the polls this week. At 14-5, they’re having another solid season despite a 1-4 mark in conference play but they’re only 2-2 in true road games this season.
The Illini offense is led by one of the best scorers in the conference in senior guard Brandon Paul, who’s averaging 18.2 points per game. Paul also averages nearly five rebounds and three assists per game. The Illini’s struggles are somewhat surprising given the fact that they returned four starters from a year ago.
Illinois is well-rested having played only once in the past nine days and hopes to shake off the rust early. The Illini have a pretty potent offense, averaging 72.6 points per game. They’ve scored 70+ twelve times already this season, eclipsing their total from a season ago.
The orange-and-white also thrive on points off turnovers with a +6.8 points per game advantage, and will be looking to make this a high-scoring affair–they’re 11-1 when reaching the 70-point plateau–while the Huskers have gotten to 70 only twice this season.
Illinois holds an 8-3 series record over Nebraska and despite getting throttled 80-57 last season in Lincoln, should get back on track tonight, though it won’t be easy–nothing is in the Big Ten.