CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) After a signature road win against then-No. 9 Penn State nearly a week ago, Illinois coach Brad Underwood was concerned about the let-down game.
All the pieces were there on Monday, playing a Nebraska team on an 11-game losing streak at home.
Instead, Illinois took care of business. Ayo Dosunmu scored 18 points and freshman center Kofi Cockburn added 15 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Illini past Nebraska 71-59.
“I just try to make whatever the right play I need to make,” Dosunmu said.
Trent Frazier and Andres Feliz added 11 points each for Illinois (18-9, 10-6). Illinois moved into a five-way tie for second place in the Big Ten Conference.
Haanif Cheatham led Nebraska (7-20, 2-14) with 14 points. Dachon Burke Jr. scored 13 points and Yvan Ouedraogo and Thorir Thorbjarnarson had 11 each.
Nebraska was playing without second-leading scorer Cam Mack (12 points per game average), who missed the trip to Champaign with the flu.
Monday’s loss was a school-record 12th consecutive loss for the Cornhuskers.
“Illinois is a team that is built for the post season, especially with those guards,” said Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg. “But I’m proud of my guys no matter the outcome.”
The first half was close, but Illinois went on a 6-0 run capped by a 70-foot shot at the buzzer by Frazier that was all net. The Illini led 37-31 at the break.
Nebraska outscored Illinois 15-9 to open the second half and tied the game at 46 with 15:11 left. But Illinois used its athleticism and size to put together a 21-9 run to create a 10-point cushion the Cornhuskers couldn’t overcome.
Illinois was 28 of 71 from the field (29%), while Nebraska was 24 of 57 (42%).
KEYS TO VICTORY
“Defense and rebounding won us the game,” Underwood said. “Trent (Frazier) is a maniac on the ball. He was solid on defense all night.”
“We just have to trust our defense when the offense is faltering,” Dosunmu said.
Illinois outrebounded the Cornhuskers 48-35, led by Cockburn’s 10 boards.
“They’re so good on the boards,” Hoiberg said. “With their guards and their big guys, it’s just tough.
Illinois had a tougher time than expected, but got the home win against a team they were expected to beat handily. The win keeps Illinois positioned for a post-season run.
Nebraska played well, especially in the first half, but couldn’t overcome Illinois’ talent, speed and defense. The loss of Mack was noticeable, despite a yeoman’s job by Burke.
Nebraska hosts No. 23 on Thursday.
Illinois hopes for another key conference win when it travels to last-place Northwestern on Thursday.
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