Illinois 23 37 - 60 Nebraska 39 36 - 75
James Palmer Jr. had a game-high 23 points to go with four assists to power Nebraska to a 75-60 victory over Illinois in the Big Ten Conference opener for both teams.
The win puts Nebraska at 7-1 overall and 1-0 in the B1G, the Huskers’ best start since the 2003-04 season, as Nebraska put three in double figures and extended its home win streak to 16 games.
Isaac Copeland joined Palmer in double figures with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting and added five rebounds, while Glynn Watson Jr. added 14 points and three assists for the winners.
Nebraska, which built a 16-point halftime lead, saw the lead whittled down to nine, at 45-36 after an Ayo Dosumnu 3-pointer with 15:07 left, but would get no closer, as Nana Akenten’s jumper and two Palmer free throws stretched the lead back to 13.
Illinois, which cut the deficit to nine on three occasions in the second half, was within 63-53 before Nebraska took control with a 7-0 run, capped by a Copeland 3-pointer and an Isaiah Roby dunk to make it 70-53 with 3:36 remaining.
Nebraska went 25-30 (83.3 percent) from the charity stripe, shot 47.8 percent from the field (22-46) and 42.9 percent from downtown (6-14) in the victory. Nebraska held Illinois to 78.6 percent from the free throw line, 42.3 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from beyond the arc.
The Huskers used a strong start and solid shooting to take a 39-23 halftime lead. The Huskers shot 55 percent from the field and went 14-16 from the charity stripe in the opening 20 minutes of action.
Nebraska got off to a fast start behind Watson and Palmer, as Nebraska hit the first four shots from the field and went 6-of-6 from the foul line to build an early 15-5 lead after a Watson basket.
The Illini chipped away, getting to within 16-12 after a basket from Trent Frazier, but Nebraska responded with seven unanswered points to take a 23-12 lead on a Palmer 3-pointer.
Palmer finished with 12 first-half points as the Huskers shot 55 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, while holding the Illini to 36 percent from the floor.
Illinois pulled to within 29-21 with 3:49 left in the half, but a Palmer 3-pointer and a basket from Copeland keyed a 10-3 run to close the half, Nebraska’s 16-point margin at the break was its largest of the half.
Giorgi Bezhanishvili led Illinois with 14 points and six rebounds, while Dosunmu added 10 points for the visitors.
The Huskers return to action on Wednesday, as they travel to Minnesota for a matchup with the Golden Gophers. Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m. and will be carried on the Husker Sports Network and televised by BTN.