The Big Ten only had one game on Monday night. And while it wasn’t a blockbuster matchup, it was an important one as Illinois hoped to add another win in its pursuit for a return to the NCAA Tournament. Nebraska hoped to play spoiler.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Illinois Fighting Illini 71, Nebraska Cornhuskers 59
As noted above, this game probably didn’t look particularly great on paper. Illinois entered as a sizable favorite and Nebraska was just hoping to pull off the upset. And the game itself generally went according to that plan, as Illinois scored a 71-59 win. The Huskers kept it close for most of the first half, but couldn’t get close enough late to put in a real scare.
The win pushed Illinois to 18-9 overall and 10-6 in Big Ten play. The Illini are almost certainly now on the verge of securing an NCAA Tournament appearance with four regular season games remaining. One more win would almost certainly put Illinois on the right side of the bubble and two would remove any doubt. Fans hope they’ll get both this week with Northwestern on the road on Thursday and Indiana at home on Sunday.
On the other side, Nebraska fell to 7-20 overall with the loss. The Huskers have now lost 12 straight dating back to an upset win over Iowa on January 7th. Obviously, things haven’t quite gone as planned for Nebraska this season. Nonetheless, it is worth mentioning the team has actually been playing better, rising from 153rd to 135th on KenPom over the last two months or so. Unfortunately, the schedule has just been brutal. Nebraska will return to action on Thursday at home against Ohio State.