How it happened: Desperate for a win, Illinois looked to be in fine position with a 24-16 lead with 8:05 left in the first half, but it would get ugly quick for the Illini. Nebraska went on a 17-2 run to close the half and led 33-26 at halftime. The Cornhuskers only made it worse in the second half. They got it to a double-digit lead on their opening possession and extended it to as many as 32 points in the second half. The 23-point margin matched Illinois’ worst loss under coach Bruce Weber. Illinois also lost by 23 points to Minnesota on Jan. 29, 2009.
What it means: Illinois was on the right side of the NCAA tournament bubble prior to the game, but Saturday’s lopsided loss to the last-place Big Ten team will be devastating to their NCAA tournament chances. They’ve now lost five in a row and eight of their last nine. They’ve dropped to 5-9 in the Big Ten and need to win out in conference to finish .500.
Outside the box: If Illinois coach Bruce Weber thought he was sitting on a hot seat before, it’s going to feel much warmer after being trounced by Nebraska. For Weber to save his job, he first has to get Illinois into the NCAA tournament and then somehow make a miracle run. It looks extremely bleak right now.
Player of the game: Nebraska’s Bo Spencer scored a game-high 27 points. He was 9-of-11 shooting and also dished out four assists.
Illinois player of the game: Junior D.J. Richardson scored a team-high 15 points and grabbed five rebounds.
What’s next: Illinois heads to Ohio State on Tuesday Nebraska travels to Purdue on Wednesday.