LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — James Palmer Jr. hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to give Nebraska a 64-63 win over Illinois on Monday night.
Michael Finke had converted a 4-point play with 8.1 seconds left to give Illinois the lead. After a Nebraska timeout, Isaac Copeland inbounded to Glynn Watson Jr., who found Palmer on the left wing for the winning shot.
The Huskers had led 61-57 with under a minute to play when Palmer dunked off a steal. But Finke scored in close on Illinois’ next possession, and after Palmer missed the front end of a one-and-one, Illinois called timeout with 18.7 seconds left. Finke hit his 3 in front of the Illini bench, got fouled by Isaiah Roby and made the free throw for what looked to be the play that would give Illinois its first Big Ten win under first-year coach Brad Underwood.
Palmer finished with 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting after a dismal 1-for-9 outing in a loss at Penn State on Friday. Evan Taylor added 13 for the Huskers (13-7, 4-3 Big Ten).
Trent Frazier scored 19 points, Finke added 16 and Leron Black had 13 for the Illini (10-9, 0-6), who are winless in six true road games.
Illinois: The Illini are one of the most snakebit teams in the nation. They’ve led in the second half in eight of their nine losses, and in four of them they’ve had the ball with either the lead or in a tie with less than a minute remaining.
Nebraska: This was an important win for a Nebraska team that has hopes of returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014. A loss at home to the last-place team would have been a stain on the resume.
Coach Tim Miles announced Nebraska center Jordy Tshimanga, who has been away from the team since Thursday for personal reasons, will return on Tuesday. The sophomore started the first 18 games and averages 3.5 points and 5.1 rebounds.
“Last week, I discussed some personal issues with Coach Miles,” Tshimanga said. “This conversation resulted in me not participating in team activities the last few days, but it has allowed me to work on these issues so I can fully focus on academics and basketball at the University of Nebraska. During the last few days, I have very much appreciated the support of Coach Miles, the coaching staff, (Athletic) Director (Bill) Moos and, most importantly, my teammates.”
Illinois visits Wisconsin on Friday.
Nebraska hosts Michigan on Thursday.