James Palmer Jr. hit a three-pointer with 0.3 seconds left to give Nebraska a 64-63 win over Illinois.
Photo by Isabel Thalken/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Top Illinois on Palmer's Last-Second Three

By NU Athletic Communications

James Palmer Jr. led Nebraska with 24 points, and none were more important than his game-winning three-pointer with 0.3 seconds left to give Nebraska a 64-63 win over Illinois on Monday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

After Illinois' Michael Finke converted on a four-point play to give Illinois a 63-61 lead with eight seconds to play, Glynn Watson Jr. took the inbounds pass up the floor and found Palmer on the left wing, who took a dribble and hit an off-balance three to give Nebraska the win as Illinois' desparation heave was off the mark. Palmer's bucket was originally ruled a two-pointer on the floor, but after a short review, the officials determined his foot was behind the three-point line, to send the crowd of 15,630 home happy.

With the win, Nebraska improves to 13-7 and 4-3 in Big Ten play, while Illinois drops to 10-8 and 0-6 in conference action.

Evan Taylor joined Palmer in double figures with 13 points, as Taylor provided a spark off the bench for NU for the first time after starting the first 19 games of the season. Isaiah Roby chipped in nine points and 10 rebounds in his first start of the year.

After Nebraska took a 32-30 lead into the locker room at halftime, Illinois got off to a quick start in the second half, using an 8-2 spurt, including a pair of buckets by Leron Black, to take a 38-34 lead and force an early Husker timeout. Trailing 40-34, Nebraska turned its defense into offense, using a pair of fast-break dunks by Palmer and Taylor to spur a 14-0 run as the Huskers held Illinois scoreless for over five minutes, helping NU take its largest lead at 48-40 with just over 11 minutes to play.

Illinois kept it close, cutting the NU lead to three at 50-47, before Anton Gill's first basket of the night, a three-pointer, increased Nebraska's lead to 53-47.

The teams traded buckets down the stretch, as Illinois shaved NU's lead to two at 59-57, before a Palmer steal and dunk gave NU some cushion at 61-57 with 59 seconds to play. Illinois was not finished yet, as Finke, who scored 15 of his 16 points after halftime, hit a jumper to cut the lead to 61-59. His next bucket on Illinois next offensive possession set the stage for Palmer's heroics in the final seconds.

Both teams struggled out of the gates in the opening half, as the two sides combined for just 2-14 shooting through the first four minutes of the game. Illinois made its first shot, but then missed its next 10, and failed to make the Huskers pay for six first-half turnovers, as the Illini scored just six points off NU miscues.

NU scored on back-to-back dunks by Palmer and Taylor, as the Huskers led 13-8 early on. The Huskers got most of their work done at the foul line to make up for a slow start from the floor, as seven of Nebraska's first 15 points came at the line. The Big Red finished the half 12-15 from the charity stripe.

After Nebraska took a 17-12 lead, Illinois used 7-0 run with just over eight minutes left to take a 19-17 lead at the under-eight media timeout. The Huskers were strong over the next few minutes of game action, as NU scored the next six points to take a 23-19 lead. Illinois closed to within 28-25 with 2:38 in the half on an and-one basket by Kipper Nichols which sent Isaac Copeland to the bench with his third foul, but Nebraska's Thomas Allen scored on a four-point play to give NU its largest lead of the half at 32-25. 

Illinois closed the half on a 5-0 run, but NU still took a 32-30 lead into the locker room at halftime. Palmer led the Huskers with 11 in the opening stanza, while Taylor, who came of the bench for the first time in 20 games this season, provided a spark with 10 first-half points.

Despite Palmer's late triple, NU was just 5-23 from behind the arc on the game, but the Huskers held Illinois to just 3-18 from downtown. A theme for the Huskers of late, NU held Illinois to 39 percent shooting, the exact mark it held its last six opponents to coming into Monday's game.

Although Illinois held a 46-29 advantage on the glass with 18 offensive rebounds, Nebraska was strong at the free-throw line, hitting 17-23, while scoring 24 points off 16 Illinois turnovers.

Trent Frazier led the visitors with 19 points. In addition to Finke's 16 tallies and 10 rebounds, Black chipped in 13 points and eight boards. 

Nebraska will return to action on Thursday, as the Huskers welcome No. 23 Michigan to Pinnacle Bank Arena, with tip-off set for 8 p.m. A limited number of tickets are available for Thursday night's contest by visiting Huskers.com/Tickets or by calling 1-800-8-BIG-RED. The game will be broadcast live on BTN and streamed on BTN2Go.com, and it can be heard around the world on the Husker Sports Network.

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