1.) Shavon Shields… The young kids would classify Shield's night on Wednesday as a guy putting in some work. The sophomore poured in a career high 33 points, going 8-of-12 from the field and a perfect 15-of-15 from the line. The former Kansas prep used the positive energy from the Pinnacle Bank Arena crowd to take over the game in the second half.
"Shields obviously had a terrific game," said Illinois head coach John Groce. "You hate to give a guy a 30 point game, and certainly he made those plays. I give the kid a lot of credit. He made 15 free throws, and he got those off the drive. He earned them."
After playing injured for a short stretch of the season, Wednesday night was Shield's fourth double-figure scoring game in five contests.
"Shavon was remarkable tonight," said Miles. "Early, he started out slow and got beat on a couple of defensive errors. We came in and he looked me square in the eye and said, ‘Coach, I'm ready. It won't happen again.' And he was ready. He was right. He was just on the attack…When you see the ball go through the hoop early, you have to feel good about that. He's been shooting and practicing really well. He took a lot of contact and finished at the rim. Since we brought David (Rivers) into the lineup and got him back to the 3, that's really helped him."
2.) Benny Parker…When Tim Miles took the reigns of the Nebraska basketball program; I for one didn't think Parker would even be on the roster in 2013-14. Not only is he still in Lincoln, he's contributing in big ways with the dismissal of Deverell Biggs.
Parker only had four points on Wednesday night, but recorded four steals in a big 24 minutes. He brings an energy to the floor off the bench that the Huskers don't get from anyone else.
"Benny was as disruptive defensively as I've seen him ever," said Miles. "He was really good. You could see him back off. You could just see him back up. I think that was exclusively Benny. And everyone else fed off that for a while. When your point guard defense is good and aggressive and you can stand the ball up, everyone else's defense improves. Benny made a whole bunch of free throws tonight. A whole bunch to me is like four. That was important."
3.) Free throw shooting… Coming into Wednesday night, Nebraska was shooting 68 percent from the free throw line. The Huskers topped that, shooting 24-of-27 for a hot 88 percent from the line. But what if they had shot their norm? It would have cost six points. In a 9-point win, six points along the way could be a huge difference maker.
1.) The bench scoring… Miles got some big minutes from a few guys on his bench, but only managed to get six points from Parker, David Rivers, Nathan Hawkins, and Leslee Smith. The Huskers big three of Shields, Terran Petteway, and Walter Pitchford can carry the load most nights, but a few more points from the bench will be needed the down the stretch.
2.) Tai Webster… The transition to D-1 basketball continues for the New Zealand freshman, who has struggled of late to find his true role in Miles' system. Wednesday night was a night he will probably soon want to forget. The starter only logged 14 minutes (10 less than his backup Parker) and registered no points and two assists. Earlier in the week, Miles said he would like to see Webster become more of a shot creator than just a distributor. That didn't happen Wednesday night. I'm not a psychologist and definitely don't claim to be one, but Webster's struggles right now seem to be more on the mental aspect of the game. Watch him with the ball – he's talented. He's just struggling to fit in.
3.) Limiting the second chance opportunities… The Huskers gave up 14 offensive rebounds – five alone to Illinois 6-foot-10 big man Nanna Egwu. Everyone knew Nebraska would struggle with inside presences this season, but will have to be limiting team's second chance points when it comes to Big Ten tournament time.
BONUS EXTRA POSITIVE:
Once again the Pinnacle Bank Arena crowd came up huge in Nebraska's victory. The loudest cheers probably came on defense, where the Huskers forced multiple shot clock violations and caused the Illini to throw up bad shots as the shot clock ticked to zero.
"We need that crowd more into it by the way," said Miles after the game. "I'm giving them like a B-minus tonight. We need A-plusses here. We need some Dr. Dre. We need some heads ringing, right? If I can quote hip-hop every other press conference, I'm very happy about that. That makes my day. About the crowd?"
The Huskers are now 11-1 in Pinnacle Bank, their only loss coming to No. 10 Michigan by a point.
Nebraska's home court advantage is starting to become evident, not only to locals, but the national media as well.