Huskers lose tough battle at Illinois

Ray Gallegos

Champaign, Ill. – Dylan Talley and Ray Gallegos combined for 43 points, but Illinois pulled away in the final five minutes to earn a 72-65 victory over Nebraska Saturday afternoon in Assembly Hall.

Gallegos led all players with 23 points, matching his career high with six 3-pointers to pace the Huskers while Talley turned in another strong performance with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in a losing effort for Nebraska (13-16, 4-12 Big Ten).

Nebraska led the back-and-forth contest 57-55 after a Shavon Shields basket with 6:07 left, but the Illini (21-9, 8-8 Big Ten) took control with a 7-0 spurt to regain the lead for good in a matchup which saw 10 ties and 13 lead changes.

Brandon Paul hit a jumper knot the game at 57 before D.J. Richardson drilled a corner three with 4:58 left to put the Illini ahead for good.

Nebraska kept hanging around and was within 64-62 after Gallegos' sixth 3-pointer of the night, but Paul's driving basket started a game-ending 9-3 surge. The Illini went 6-for-6 from the line in the final minute to hold off the Huskers' comeback bid, capping a 15-of-18 effort from the charity stripe on the day.

Tracy Abrams led five Illini in double figures with 16 points, including 6-of-6 from the line, while Paul and Richardson added 14 and 13 points, respectively for the winners.

Nebraska shot 46 percent from the field, including 9-of-18 from 3-point range, and held Illinois to 44 percent, including 9-of-26 from long range.

The Huskers played a solid first half, shooting 50 percent from the field and were tied before Abrams' long-distance 3-pointer on Illinois' final possession of the half gave the hosts a 35-32 lead. Nebraska controlled the tempo for most of the half and got major contributions from Gallegos and Talley, who had 11 points each before the break.

Richardson, who had a career-high 30 points in the first matchup, score five early points, but the Huskers used a 7-0 spurt to take a 9-5 lead after a David Rivers basket at the 17:00 mark. After a Brandon Ubel basket tied the score at 13, Illinois went on a 9-2 run to build a 22-15 left after an Abrams' 3-pointer. Nebraska came back with five straight points on a Gallegos' 3-pointer and a pair of Talley free throws to trim the lead to two points, at 22-20. The teams would be within one possession of each of ether for the rest of the half, before Abrams' shot to beat the buzzer gave the hosts a 3-point halftime lead.

Nebraska trailed 39-35 early in the second half after a long Paul jumper, but used a 5-1 run to tie the score on a Talley 3-pointer with 15:16 left. Talley scored seven straight Husker points, as his steal and bucket gave Nebraska a 44-42 lead. The teams traded the lead, as Gallegos put the Huskers ahead before a Talley basket with 11:19 left gave the visitors a four-point lead.

The lead would not last long, as a 3-pointer from Tyler Griffey and a Nnanna Egwu put-back put the Illini on top 50-49. Gallegos, as he did for most of the day, answered back with a 3-pointer to give NU a 52-50 lead. With 7:09 left, Paul's 3-pointer put the Illini ahead 55-53, but Nebraska answered back. Brandon Ubel's basket tied the score before Shields' driving bucket put NU head 57-55 for the final time.

The Huskers return to the Devaney Center for the final time this Wednesday, March 6, when they host the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. with a Huskers Legends autograph session set for 7 p.m. and Senior Night ceremonies for Andre Almeida, Dylan Talley and Brandon Ubel prior to the game. Tickets are set for $10 and $15 by visiting Huskers.com or calling 800-8-BIGRED.

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