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February 26, 2014

Hoops Gameday: Nebraska at Illinois

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Nebraska Cornhuskers

at Illinois Fighting Illini
Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 - 8 p.m. CT
TV: Big Ten Network / RADIO: IMG Husker Sports Radio Network

Illinois Fighting Illini (15-12, 4-10 Big Ten)
Streak: Won 1
Last Game: Defeated Minnesota 62-49
G Tracy Abrams (averaging 11.3 ppg and team-high 3.1 apg) Jr. 6-2 190
G Kendrick Nunn (named Big Ten Freshman of the Week last week) Fr. 6-3 180
G Malcolm Hill (true freshman scoring 3.8 ppg with 2.1 rpg) Fr. 6-6 210
G Rayvonte Rice (scored 23 points in loss at Nebraska) Jr. 6-4 235
F/C Nnanna Egwu (ranks second in Big Ten with 2.3 bpg) Jr. 6-11 250

Nebraska CornhuskersNebraska Cornhuskers (16-10, 8-6 Big Ten)
Streak: Won 5
Last Game: Defeated Purdue 76-57
G Tai Webster (held scoreless in just 10 minutes of action vs. Purdue) Fr. 6-4 194
G Ray Gallegos (had 23 points on six 3-pointers last year at Illinois) Sr. 6-2 182
G/F Terran Petteway (leads Big Ten in scoring with 18.4 ppg) So. 6-6 209
F Shavon Shields (had career-high 33 points in win over Illinois in Lincoln) So. 6-7 219
C Walter Pitchford (averaging 9.1 ppg and 4.3 rpg on the season) 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 Fighting Illini's best player, but one of the premier players in the Big Ten Conference. Nebraska got a full taste of Rice in its first meeting with Illinois in Lincoln, as he went off for 23 points against the Huskers and took 11 more shots than any other Fighting Illini player. Granted, two true freshmen in Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill had just been added to the starting lineup, and second-leading scorer Tracy Abrams was playing with a sore back, but Rice will once again be the focal point for the Huskers tonight.
Find ways to score

Sure, Nebraska has won two straight road games after going nearly a full calendar year without a true road victory. But the main reason behind the turnaround has been the Huskers' play defensively, as they've continued to struggle scoring the ball away from home all season. Nebraska has only eclipsed the 60-point mark in two of nine true road games this year and hasn't done so since a 70-64 loss at Purdue. Now factor in that Illinois has held its past two opponents to under 50 points, and it looks fairly obvious that points might be tough to come by for NU.
Keep marching

Nebraska's run to the forefront of the NCAA Tournament bubble discussion has been nothing short of impressive, but with four games still remaining in the regular season, the Huskers are still a long way from locking up a ticket to the Big Dance. The mantra for this team has been the old cliche of one game at a time, and while boring, it couldn't be truer for a squad that can't really afford to slip up much at all down the stretch. Illinois and Indiana are Nebraska's two remaining road games, and if it can find a way to win both while continuing to take care of business at home, NU would be pretty tough for the selection committee to pass up.

Nebraska head coach Tim Miles on if he's worried about his team becoming the 'hunted' instead of the 'hunters':

"No, because our goal is to hunt the NCAA Tournament, and we've got a long way to go to get there. We just have almost no margin of error, so I still feel like we're hunting like crazy."
Sophomore forward Shavon Shields on the importance of not letting other Illinois players hurt them offensively along with Rice:

"We've got to control him, too. We can't let him go for 25, 30, and then have another guy stepping up. We've just got to key into what they're doing and try to take away what they're good at in order to keep that from happening."

Nebraska 65-61

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