Fouls, Turnovers Hamper Illini In Big Ten Opening Loss At Nebraska
The Illini men's basketball team lost its Big Ten opener 75-60 Sunday in Lincoln, Nebraska.
James Palmer scored 23 points for the host Cornhuskers, including a dozen free throws. Illini coach Brad Underwood joked that fouling Palmer was strategic.
“Thought we might try to set a Nebraska record and see how many free throws we’d let Palmer shoot tonight," Underwood said. "He puts a lot of fouls on people. We’ve got to grow up in that area. We’ve got to become a little more disciplined.”
Palmer drew nine fouls from Illini defenders, and committed none himself.
Giorgi Bezhanishvili led Illinois with 14 points and 6 rebounds despite playing in foul trouble throughout the game, and eventually fouling out.
Kipper Nichols added a dozen points for Illinois. Referencing his team's near-upset of top-ranked Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational, Nichols acknowledged that his team's inconsistency is the difference between great and terrible outcomes.
"Collectively, you've seen what we're capable of doing against great teams, to the tune of number one in the country," Nichols said. "So, it's sad to see us come out here, and, not lay an egg, but we're a lot better."
Nebraska outrebounded Illinois by a 35-30 margin. Each team committed more turnovers than assists. Nebraska fumbled 16 times and Illinois 15. Illini Ayo Dosunmu and Nebraska's Palmer each had five turnovers.
Isaac Copeland added 16 points for the Huskers. Glynn Watson chipped in 14 points and 6 rebounds from the point guard position.
The Illini are now 2-6 on the year. Nebraska improves to 7-1. The Illini will play one other Big Ten opponent, Ohio State, on Wednesday night in Chicago, before returning to a more traditional pre-New Year's non-conference slate.