Shavon Shields scored a career-high 33 points, making all 15 of his free throws for Nebraska’s best performance at the line in 32 years, as the Cornhuskers beat Illinois 67-58 two weeks ago. Terran Petteway added 16 points as the Huskers improved their record to 11-1 at Pinnacle Bank Arena at the time. Now, the Huskers will go for their sixth straight win tonight in Champaign, IL.
The Huskers (16-10, 8-6 B1G) have been red hot going 7-1 over the last month. Nebraska put together a 76-57 win over Purdue Sunday afternoon. Sophomore Terran Petteway paced the Huskers with a game-high 29 points – his 10th 20-point game of the season.
Nebraska’s five-game win streak has been bolstered on a tough defense that has allowed 56.4 points per game in that stretch. The Huskers are holding foes to just 35 percent shooting, including 27 percent from 3-point range, and averaging nearly seven steals per game. Sophomore Benny Parker is averaging 2.4 steals off the bench over the Huskers’ last five contests.
The Fighting Illini head into Wednesday’s game with a 15-12 record and are 4-10 in the Big Ten following a 62-49 win at Minnesota on Feb. 19. The Fighting Illini, which had lost its last eight games, four games ago, putt freshmen Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill into the lineup and have played much better. Illinois is 2-2 since the switch, holding its last two foes under 50 points.
John Groce is in his second year at Illinois after he guided the Illini to a 23-13 record and the third round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Before taking the Illinois job, he led Ohio University to a 29-8 record and a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2012. Groce also served as an assistant at Ohio State, Xavier and North Carolina State before taking over the Bobcat program.
Illinois, which returned a pair of starters from the 2013 squad, won 13 of its first 15 contests, including wins against UNLV, Missouri and Indiana, before struggling at times in Big Ten action. The Illini are led by junior guard Rayvonte Rice, who ranks among the Big Ten leaders in scoring at 16.2 points per game while grabbing 5.9 rebounds per game. He is one of two Illini in double figures as junior point guard Tracy Abrams averages 11.3 points and 3.1 assists per game. Junior center Nnanna Egwu is one of the top defensive centers in the Big Ten as he ranks second with 2.3 blocked shots per contests.
Petteway has emerged as one of the contenders for Big Ten Player of the Year, as the sophomore is averaging a conference-best 19.4 points per game. He averaged 27.5 points per game last week and is bidding to become the first Husker since Andre Smith in the 1980-81 season to his league in scoring.
Illinois (15-12, 4-10 B1G) has been off since an impressive 62-49 win over Minnesota last Wednesday. The Fighting Illini has held its last two opponents under 50 points and is 2-2 since snapping an eight-game losing streak. Junior transfer Rayvonte Rice leads Illinois with 16.2 points per game to rank among the Big Ten scoring leaders. Rice had 23 points and six rebounds in the first meeting two weeks ago.