CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — In its most well-rounded game of the season, Nebraska built double-digit leads in both halves against Illinois and held control nearly throughout Saturday during a 78-67 victory.
For the Huskers (11-8, 3-3), it was their third straight Big Ten win overall and the second in a row on the road. Neither of those had happened since NU’s NCAA tourney run two seasons ago.
Nebraska got strongly efficient offensive games from junior wing Andrew White, freshman guard Glynn Watson and junior guard Tai Webster.
White scored 21 points on 7 of 12 shooting — his first made field goal wasn’t until the halftime buzzer on a putback — and added 13 rebounds.
“When I saw he had 21 and 13, I thought, ‘No way!’ ” NU coach Tim Miles told the Husker Sports Network. “That’s what makes you so proud of him. He does not get rattled.”
White scored six points in a 10-0 run that put Nebraska up 53-39 with 13:30 to play.
Watson, who drew lukewarm recruiting attention from Illinois despite growing up in Chicago and earning an ESPN Top 100 ranking, matched his career scoring high with 17 points on 7 of 13 shooting.
He scored seven of Nebraska’s first nine points in the first half, and six of the first nine in the second half. The output has surprised Miles, who thought Watson might be an 8- to 10-point a game player.
“I didn’t know there were nights he would get you 20,” Miles said. “He can. If he makes a couple free throws tonight, he has 21.”
Webster scored 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting, while adding six rebounds. He contributed nine points in a 17-2 run that got Nebraska a 35-23 lead with 3:32 to go in the first half.
Miles also praised Shavon Shields for his leadership, though the senior forward didn’t have a good statistical day.
His 14 points came on 5 of 17 shooting (29.4 percent). The rest of the team shot 64.1 percent. Also, the man Shields guarded — Illinois wing Malcolm Hill — scored a team-high 17 points and added seven assists and five rebounds.
In huddles, Miles said, “I didn’t have to say anything. Shavon was holding court.”
The Huskers outshot the Illini 53.6 percent to 39 percent, outrebounded them 42 to 24 and committed just 10 turnovers.
Another boost came from another Chicagoan — freshman forward Ed Morrow. He had six points and six rebounds, including a thunderous follow-dunk early.
Nebraska has benefited lately from playing teams its own size.
Neither Rutgers, Minnesota nor Illinois had an inside offensive threat. On offense, the Huskers have taken advantage in those three wins by attacking the basket to the point of shooting 50 percent or better in all six halves.
“We’ve been on the glass pretty good,” Miles said. “We got half of our misses back in the first half. That’s huge. That’s not many opportunities for (Illinois) to get stops.”
Illinois (9-9, 1-4) thought it had jump-started its season by thumping No. 20 Purdue last Sunday 84-70. But the Illini led for less than five minutes Saturday in their home building.