Illinois 71, Nebraska 51: Rapid Reaction

A quick look at Illinois' 71-51 victory over Nebraska in Lincoln Wednesday.

Illinois snapped a three-game losing streak, defeating Nebraska Wednesday 71-51 for it's first win since Jan. 5.

It was over when: Richardson scored five straight points late in the second half, running the Illini lead to 63-46. The Cornhuskers previously maintained around a 10-point deficit, but were unable to mount another charge after Richardson sank a 3 and two free throws with just over five minutes remaining. Richardson's points capped a 12-2 run, ensuring the victory on the road.

Player of the game: Richardson. The senior guard poured in a career-high 30 points on 9-of-14 shooting. He hit six of his nine 3-point attempts and had the look of the player that reached double figures in nine consecutive games in the out-of-conference portion of the schedule.

Unsung hero: Joe Bertrand. The redshirt junior had seven points, eight rebounds and five steals off the bench. He came out active in transition, on defense and the offensive glass.

Stat of the night: Rebounding. The Illini out-rebounded Nebraska 36-24, including a 13-8 advantage on the offensive glass. That effort led to numerous second chance opportunities, as three Illini players -- Nnanna Egwu, Sam McLaurin and Bertrand -- had at least three offensive boards.

Fun fact: Each coach -- Tim Miles and John Groce -- received a technical foul in the second half for expressing displeasure with officials.

The takeaway: The Illini got off the losing track in a game that had to be won. A loss to lowly Nebraska, on the heels of a terrible showing against Northwestern, would have more than likely ended chances of making the NCAA Tournament. That's a bold statement with it still mid-January, but look at the next five games: Michigan, @Michigan State, Wisconsin, Indiana, @Minnesota. That's right, those are the top five teams in the Big Ten. Illinois beat a team it was supposed to Wednesday. Now it's time to see if the Illini are contenders or pretenders. The next five games will determine that.

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