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Gill’s injury hurts Nebraska as Big Ten play gets underway

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Kansas Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Nebraska Cornhuskers announced that junior guard Anton Gill will miss the rest of the season after injuring his right knee during practice on Sunday.

Gill ruptured his patella tendon and will need six to eight months for rehabilitation after surgery.

Gill played in all 12 games and started one game for the Huskers this season, averaging 3.8 points and 1.9 rebounds. The native of Raleigh, North Carolina arrived in Lincoln after transferring from Louisville, where he played for two seasons after being recruited by Rick Pitino out of Hargrave Military Academy as a national Top 50 recruit in the Class of 2013.

Gill’s right knee plagued him earlier in the year, forcing him to sit out much of summer conditioning and fall practice. After sitting out last season due to NCAA redshirt transfer rules, Gill was expected to come in this season to help fill the void left by the departure of Shavon Shields and graduate transfer Andrew White III.

While these expectations proved lofty to start the season, Gill was beginning to develop into a key contributor for the Huskers. Despite early offensive struggles, Gill saw his minutes increase and found his shooting touch. In his last game against the Southern Jaguars Gill scored 10 points, including hitting two of three attempts from beyond the arc.

The Huskers weren’t deep at the guard position before Gill’s injury. Now, Tim Miles will need to find ways to compete in a deep and physical Big Ten Conference with one of his key bench players now out for the year.

Huskers freshman Jeriah Horne, who scored 18 points against Southern on Dec. 20, will see a change in his role and in playing time due to Gill’s absence. Arguably the team’s top three point shooting threat, Horne will now be expected to carry more of the offensive burden for a Nebraska team that has struggled to find the basket in the 2016 season’s early stage.

Nebraska will also need more production from Jack McVeigh, who has shown flashes of offensive brilliance with a 14 point performance in the season opener against Sacramento State, a 21 point explosion in a win over Louisiana Tech and 16 points against South Dakota State. McVeigh has struggled in the Huskers last four games, scoring only ten points combined, and will need to return to his early season form for the Huskers to have any hope of surviving conference play.

If Wednesday night’s stunning upset of No. 16 Indiana is any indication, the Huskers could be fine moving forward. With critics circling the program Nebraska pulled off one of the season’s biggest upsets. Sophomore guard Glynn Watson led all scorers with 26 points, hitting 4 of 7 shots from three. Tai Webster scored 21 points and had 4 steals. Horne delivered 11 points off the bench. Everything went right for the Huskers, who shot 48.4% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc.

Gill’s injury came at the worst time for a Nebraska team still searching for depth and an identity on offense. But the win over Indiana changes the program’s perspective. Before stunning Assembly Hall the expectations were that Nebraska would struggle to even stay on the court with the Big Ten’s top teams. Maybe the Huskers win over Indiana was a fluke. Or maybe this team is peaking at the right time. Whatever the case the Huskers will need Horne to build on his performance against Indiana and for McVeigh to step up his game while continuing to see production from Watson and Webster if they want to continue shocking the Big Ten basketball world.