LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Trent Frazier scored a season-high 29 points, Kofi Cockburn had his eighth straight double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 25 Illinois held off struggling Nebraska for a hard-earned 81-71 victory Tuesday night.
The Illini (12-3, 5-0 Big Ten) have won five straight games and 10 of 11 and are out to their best start in conference play since 2005.
Nebraska (6-11, 0-6) has lost nine of 10 and a program-record 21 straight against ranked opponents, the last 20 under third-year coach Fred Hoiberg.
The Huskers, who appeared to all but quit in the second half of a 93-65 loss at Rutgers on Saturday, wouldn’t fold against an Illinois team that has won 11 of 12 Big Ten road games.
Nebraska was up 12 points early and down eight late in the first half before going on a 13-0 run spanning the halves to take a two-possession lead.
The Illini clawed back and went up 51-47 on Coleman Hawkins' tip-in of Cockburn's miss and Frazier's layup. But they couldn't build on their advantage and Bryce McGowens' two free throws tied it 65-65 with under four minutes to play.
With Cockburn on the bench with four fouls, the Illini started to put the game away, leading 72-65 after Hawkins' third-chance putback, Omar Payne's dunk and Da'Monte Williams' 3.
McGowens led the Huskers with 19 points and Alonzo Verge Jr. and Derrick Walker had 14 apiece.
Nebraska, which came in shooting a Big Ten-worst 28% on 3s, made four straight from beyond the arc in the first four minutes while getting out to a 16-4 lead.
The Huskers cooled off in a hurry, missing 14 of its next 16 shots. Illinois began heating up, going on a 27-7 run with Cockburn scoring on a slick inside move to give the Illini their first lead and Alfonso Plummer and Frazier hitting 3s from the wing to make it 31-23 late in the first half.
But the Illini missed four shots and committed five turnovers while going scoreless the last 4 1/2 minutes of the half. Nebraska rattled off 11 straight points for a 34-31 lead at half, the first time in eight games against Power Five opponents the Huskers were up at the break.
Illinois: This was a much more difficult game than expected for the double-digit favorite Illini. Cockburn was kept under control until the middle of the second half and the Huskers gave the Illini all they could handle until the last few minutes. They've won nine straight Big Ten regular-season games and 12 in a row including last year's conference tournament.
Nebraska: The Huskers have played some of their best basketball at home but again couldn't get over the hump. They haven't beaten a ranked opponent since March 2019.
Illinois: Hosts Michigan on Friday.
Nebraska: Visits Purdue on Friday.