LINCOLN — Early in Nebraska's 67-58 men's basketball victory over Illinois on Wednesday night, forward Shavon Shields wondered how long he might get to play.
The Illini jumped to a 10-2 lead in the first 3:14, and NU's 6-foot-7 sophomore forward was feeling the heat from the bench.
“Part of that bad start was on me,” he said. “They scored like five or eight points on me. Coach was on me, and I said I needed to make up for it.”
Consider that debt paid in full.
Shields scored Nebraska's next 12 points after the sluggish beginning, and didn't stop until he finished with a career-high 33. He also tied the school record for most free throws without a miss — 15 — set by Jack Moore against Oklahoma State in 1982.
“I just started attacking, got to the rim and hit a couple of 3s and then hit a couple of free throws,” said Shields, who boosted his scoring average from 11.0 to 12.0 with his outburst.
“That kind of got me going. And then I just kept feeding off my teammates.”
Shields hobbled to the bench with 7:46 to play and Nebraska leading 52-47, bringing a hush to the Pinnacle Bank Arena crowd of 14,412. He had 24 points at the time.
“I banged knees where I hurt my knee earlier in the year,” he said. “It was the same sort of thing.”
When he returned about a minute later, the lead was down to three. But Shields responded with another run of nine consecutive points to give Nebraska its first double-digit lead and seal the victory.
“Shields was terrific driving the ball and making plays,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “He was great off the bounce.”
Shields' previous scoring high was 29 points last year against Penn State. He had two 20-point games earlier this season — 28 in the opener against Florida Gulf Coast and 22 against Creighton.
But he has had five single-digit scoring games in the Big Ten.
On Wednesday, Shields hit double digits in both halves — 14 in the first and 19 in the second. He finished 8 of 12 from the field, 2 of 4 on 3s and 15 of 15 from the line.
The personal best came in front of his parents, who drove up from Olathe, Kan. Will Shields is a former Husker offensive line All-American and NFL Pro Bowler with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Shavon brushed off any talk that he was motivated by his parents' presence, or his dad's self-described lucky yellow shirt.
“They're always here,” Shavon said. “I hope they love me, regardless.”
Nebraska (13-10, 5-6) loves how the results are going in the Big Ten. The Huskers now are tied for sixth, and have matched last year's win total (5-13) with seven games to play.
“It's big,” Shields said. “We need to keep staying together and protecting the home court, and start getting big wins on the road.”
Nebraska coach Tim Miles said Shields looked him “square in the eye” after the early defensive lapses and said they wouldn't happen again.
“Well, he was ready,” Miles said. “He was right. He was just on the attack. He got four free throws early, so you see the ball go through the hoop early, you feel good about that.
“He's been shooting and practicing really well.”
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>> Video: See highlights from Nebraska's win over Illinois: