James Palmer Jr. had a game-high 23 points to go with four assists and one steal to power the Huskers to victory in the Big Ten Conference opener. The win puts Nebraska at 7-1 overall and 1-0 in the B1G, the Huskers’ best start since the 2003-04 season.
Isaac Copeland was the next most productive Husker with 16 points, going 6-9 from the field and cleaned the glass with five rebounds against the Illini (2-6, 0-1 B1G). Copeland netted nine points in the second half alone.
Glenn Watson Jr. also contributed double figures with 14 points, which moved him into 20th place on NU’s career scoring list with 1,158 points. He needed seven points going into today to become 20th in the Nebraska scoring charts.
Illinois used an 8-2 run to open the second half and cut the lead to 41-31 after Nebraska led 39-23 at the break. The Huskers and Illini traded buckets before Palmer successfully converted two free throws, Copeland made a jumper and an Isaiah Roby dunk put an exclamation point on the day with 3:40 remaining in the second half. The Roby dunk put Nebraska up by 17 and the Huskers never looked back.
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.
The Huskers return to action on Wednesday, as they travel to Minnesota for a matchup with the Golden Gophers.