Photo by Pat Radigan
Story by Pat Radigan
Last-second 3-pointer erases Illini’s late four-point play in frantic finish at Pinnacle Bank Arena
It wasn’t the first game-winner of James Palmer Jr.’s basketball life, but it was the first time Nebrasketball used a hanging 3-point leaner to put away a Big Ten win.
The desperation 3-pointer by Palmer came on the heels of a four-point play for Illinois, and helped the Huskers avoid back-to-back heartbreakers in conference action. Palmer already led all scorers before the final play, and finished with 24 points after adding the final three to guide Nebraska to 13-7 (4-3) on the year.
“I’d rather be lucky than good,” said Nebraska coach Tim Miles in place of an opening statement as a sly smile spread across his face.
But there were many moments where it looked like Miles may not end the night with a smile on his face. It looked like the Huskers had taken control with a 14-0 run, before the Illini made for a tense final few minutes at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Following a sloppy first half for both sides, Illinois went ahead 40-34 on a pair of free throws by Da’Monte Williams. A minute and a half later, it was tied after Isaiah Roby dramatically saved a tipped ball, and it fell right into the hands of Palmer. Palmer laid it off for a streaking Evan Taylor, who laid the ball softly over the rim to make it 40-40 and force an Illini timeout.
Nebraska forced a shot clock violation out of the timeout, before Glynn Watson Jr. hit a jump shot to give Nebraska the lead. Watson capped the run with a 3-pointer, his only other make from the field, and make it 48-40 with 11:06 to go.
Illinois ended the run with a jump shot by Trent Frazier, who finished with 19 points, and got back into the game as Michael Finke started to find a rhythm. Finke hit a 3-pointer and two jump shots to help the Illini chip away at the lead, and added another make to cut the NU lead to 61-59 inside the final minute.
Palmer missed the front end of a 1-and-1 to open the door for Illinois to tie the game or take the lead, and Finke brought about a nightmare scenario for the Husker when he made a 3-pointer plus a foul as Roby tried to contest the shot. Finke hit the free throw to finish with 16 points, including 15 in the second half, and made it a two-point game with 8.1 seconds left.
Out of a Nebraska timeout, NU got the ball in to Watson, who brought the ball across midcourt and into traffic in front of the scorer’s table. Watson changed directions, and dribbled back across the court before swinging a pass to a moving Palmer on the right wing. The junior took a dribble, and kept his momentum going toward the hoop as he pulled up from behind the line.
Palmer crashed the board after the shot, and watched from close range as his shot splashed through the net to put the Huskers ahead one final time.
In the end, Nebraska was outrebounded by 17, gave up 18 offensive rebounds and shot just 21 percent from 3-point range, yet still found a way to get back above .500 in league play with No. 23 Michigan coming to PBA on Thursday.
“I think the guys are just really disappointed the way they played against Penn State – the could have, would have, should have, part of it,” Miles said. “So they wanted to come out and play better and get a [win]. If we make our layups, just our bunnies, it’s probably eight or 10 points late in the game.”
“We have to toughen up some. We have to get that finesse out of us and stay ball tough and stay mentally tough and finish those plays and make some open ‘3’s on occasion.”