CHAMPAIGN — Illinois used double-figure scoring from five players to hold off stubborn Nebraska Saturday, 72-65.
The Huskers led 57-55 with just over 6 minutes to play. But the Illini (21-9, 8-8 Big Ten) went on a 7-0 run to go up 62-57 and never trailed again.
Tracy Abrams led Illinois with 16 points. Brandon Paul had 14 and Richardson, Myke Henry and Nnanna Egwu also scored in double figures.
Nebraska (13-16, 4-12) was led by 23 points from Ray Gallegos and 20 by Dylan Talley. Benny Parker fouled out late.
Talley's bucket with 14:29 to play tied the game at 42, and two minutes later he put the Cornhuskers up 44-42, first stealing the ball from Abrams and then breaking away for a layup.
For the next six minutes, Nebraska gave Illinois all it could handle, riding jump shots from Talley and Gallegos and finding points under the basket when they needed them to swap leads with Illinois.
But with Nebraska up 57-55, the Illini went on a 7-0 run that swung the game their way.
Paul and Richardson sank back-to-back jumpers — Richardson's was a 3-pointer — and Tracy Abrams drove for a final two off the glass to put Illinois up for good, 62-57.
Saturday was senior day, with the core of the Illini roster — including Richardson, Paul, Sam McLaurin and Tyler Griffey — honored along with their parents before the game. The day also marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Assembly Hall, and there were ceremonies for that, too.
And the Illini, perhaps predictably, came out flat.
On the big screens hanging above midcourt, Illinois reminded its fans of the high points from its past — the run-and-dunk Flyin' Illini from the '80s, the Deron Williams-led team that went 37-2 and lost in the 2005 NCAA title game.
What the packed house saw on the court below didn't look much like those teams.
Nebraska overcame seven first-half turnovers, some of them on glaring mistakes, to stay close over the first 20 minutes.
Talley's 3-pointer with 3:27 left in the half pulled the Cornhuskers even at 28.
But after getting a stop, Gallegos missed a 3-pointer that would have given Nebraska its first lead since the opening minutes.
Illinois took a 35-32 lead to the locker room, but got there on a desperation heave by Abrams with 4 seconds on the clock. Abrams dribbled out most of the half's final possession near the top of the arc before finally driving and finding no space, forcing him to shoot falling away from a defender.
While Talley and Gallegos and drove Nebraska, the Cornhuskers didn't get a point from their bench and played just seven players. Gallegos, Talley and Brandon Ubel each played all 40 minutes.
The win helps build Illinois' NCAA tournament case with two regular-season games left. The Illini play at Iowa Tuesday and at No. 16 Ohio State March 10.
Nebraska hosts Minnesota Wednesday before closing at Iowa.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.