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Shannon scores Big Ten tourney-record 40 points, No. 13 Illinois beats Nebraska 98-87 in semifinals

Illinois guard Terrence Shannon Jr. (0) dribbles down the court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Nebraska in the semifinal round of the Big Ten Conference tournament, Saturday, March 16, 2024, in Minneapolis.

MINNEAPOLIS — Terrence Shannon Jr. scored a career-high 40 points for a Big Ten Tournament record to lead a second-half surge by 13th-ranked Illinois in a 98-87 victory over Nebraska in the semifinals on Saturday.
Marcus Domask added 16 points, eight assists and seven rebounds and Luke Goode made four 3-pointers for the Illini (25-8), who fell behind by 15 points early in the second half before seizing control to move to the conference championship game against Wisconsin on Sunday.

Wisconsin beat third-ranked Purdue 76-75 in overtime in the other semifinal game.

Brice Williams had 23 points, Keisei Tominaga added 18 points and Rienk Mast scored 15 for the Huskers (23-10), who hit the wall hard down the stretch in their first appearance in the Big Ten semifinals in 13 seasons in the league.

Shannon had 18 points in less than 12 minutes to start the game, went quiet for awhile, and then got going again early in the second half. The Huskers are the only team in the conference allowing less than 40% shooting, but they started to lose the Illini’s prolific guards down the stretch.

Tominaga’s slick drive for a layup stopped a 10-0 run around the 13-minute mark, but Shannon answered with a 3-pointer — the first team All-Big Ten pick went 5 for 9 from deep — to bring Illinois back within three points.

Tominaga, Nebraska’s leading scorer, knocked down a 3-pointer off the break to push the lead to 66-60, and teammate Josiah Allick closed his eyes and said, “Yes!” to no one in particular on the way back. The Huskers badly needed that, but they couldn’t come up with any more clutch shots.

Goode banked in a 3-pointer from the top of the key for a 71-70 lead, putting the Illini in front for the first time since 10-8, and they never let up.

The last time an Illinois player hit the 40-point mark was Malcolm Hill against Northern Kentucky on Nov. 13, 2016.

Shannon’s 40 points surpassed the 35 scored by Northwestern’s Michael Thompson in 2011.

Both the Illini and the Huskers were safely in the NCAA Tournament, having finished in second and third place, respectively, over the 20-game grind of league play, but there’s always the matter of bettering seeding and building momentum for March Madness.

The Huskers have enjoyed a breakout in the fifth year under coach Fred Hoiberg for the second-most wins in program history. The only time they’ve reached a conference final was 1994, when they beat Oklahoma State to win the Big Eight. But maybe Nebraska is becoming a basketball school after all. The women’s team took second-ranked Iowa to overtime in the Big Ten championship game here last week.

Associated Press

Associated Press

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