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February 12, 2014

Hoops Gameday: Nebraska vs. Illinois

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Nebraska Cornhuskers

vs. Illinois Fighting Illini
Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 - 8 p.m. CT
TV: Big Ten Network / RADIO: IMG Husker Sports Radio Network

Illinois Fighting Illini (14-10, 3-8 Big Ten)
Streak: Won 1
Last Game: Defeated Penn State 60-55
G Tracy Abrams (averaging 11.5 ppg and team-high 3.2 apg) Jr. 6-2 190
G Kendrick Nunn (true freshman averaging 4.8 ppg) Fr. 6-3 180
G Malcolm Hill (true freshman scoring 3.6 ppg with 2.2 rpg) Fr. 6-6 210
G Rayvonte Rice (leads team with 16.5 ppg and 6.0 rpg) Jr. 6-4 235
F/C Nnanna Egwu (ranks third in Big Ten with 2.3 bpg) Jr. 6-11 250

Nebraska CornhuskersNebraska Cornhuskers (12-10, 4-6 Big Ten)
Streak: Won 1
Last Game: Defeated Northwestern 53-49
G Tai Webster (played just 19 minutes vs. Northwestern) Fr. 6-4 194
G Ray Gallegos (ranks seventh in Big Ten with 2.0 3-pointers/game) Sr. 6-2 182
G/F Terran Petteway (had 17 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists vs. Northwestern) So. 6-6 209
F Shavon Shields (second on team in scoring with 11.0 ppg) So. 6-7 219
C Walter Pitchford (had career-high 15 points against Northwestern) So. 6-10 234

Shut down Rice

It's no secret which player is Illinois' heart and soul on the court, as junior guard Rayvonte Rice comes in as not only the Fightining Illini's best player, but one of the premier players in the Big Ten Conference. When Rice gets into a rhythm offensively, Illinois' entire team takes on an entirely different look. Nebraska has done a good job this year of keying in on its opponent's go-to guys and forcing other players to step up. With two true freshmen around Rice in the starting lineup, look for the Huskers to take their chances again and do everything possible to keep Rice quiet.
Get out early

This is an Illinois team that just over a month ago was ranked in the Top 25 and considered a legit contender in the Big Ten. Eight straight losses later, the Illini were just trying to do anything to stop the bleeding and save what they could from the season. Illinois finally snapped the streak last time out with a win at Penn State, so it's going to be extremely important for Nebraska to not allow any momentum from that win carry over tonight. Jump on them early and get them thinking 'Here we go again' from the opening minutes and don't let up.
Own home court

When you look at Nebraska's eight remaining regular-season games, five of them will be played in the friendly confines of Pinnacle Bank Arena. Considering the Huskers boast a 10-1 home record this season, that is absolutely huge in their chances of making a serious postseason push. The challenge now is to make the most of that favorable schedule by taking care of business at home and stealing one or two (or three) on the road. In reality, Illinois is a team NU should be able to beat at home, but it can't take anything for granted. Step it up and ride the home court advantage.

Nebraska head coach Tim Miles on the topic of the Huskers making a potential postseason run:

"Let's just say publicly it comes up that hey, you guys might have a chance at postseason or whatever. I think the trick for me is just keeping the guys focused on the cliche of one game at a time, the process, the whole thing like that. We'd have to make a gigantic run to be talking about the NCAA (Tournament), and a not-so-gigantic run to be talking about being an NIT team. But at the same time, we just need to be able to beat a team now that probably has renewed life and feeling like, 'Hey, we can do this. Let's go beat Nebraska just like we did last year.'"
Sophomore forward Walter Pitchford on expanding his game and needing take the ball to the basket more often:

"There's no question if I'm strong enough. I came in benching like 230, and now I'm up to 315. Everybody on the team knows I'm strong enough to go to the rack. It's just, I fell in love with the three a little bit too much, I'll just say that. Now, I need to like the three and love the rim."

Nebraska 65-61

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