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As the Nebraska men's basketball team convened in its locker room after taking care of Illinois, there was one word written on the white board.

Minnesota.

That's the Huskers' next opponent, Wednesday night. That NU could already look ahead to that game after putting away the Illini 75-60 Sunday in front of 11,794 at Pinnacle Bank Arena, said plenty about Nebraska's performance.

Nebraska stormed to a nine-point lead a little more than two minutes into the game, and the Huskers started Big Ten play 1-0. The Huskers' 7-1 start is the program's best since the 2003-04 season.

The latest victory came against a team that, while just 2-6, has been in nearly every contest to the end. Illinois pushed No. 1-ranked Gonzaga to the final minute and nearly knocked off Notre Dame on the road.

"It was really important to get on top of them and keep them at arm's length," Husker coach Tim Miles said. "That's been hard for a lot of teams to do — Gonzaga hasn't done it, Notre Dame didn't do it, and we were able to."

Unlike last season, when James Palmer's three-pointer at the buzzer gave the Huskers a one-point win over the Illini at PBA, Nebraska led the entire way and by nine or more for the last 23 minutes of the game.

Palmer finished with 23 points, going 12-of-14 at the free-throw line as the Huskers, a 68 percent free-throw shooting team coming in, went 25-for-30. Illinois finished with one more field goal than NU but was outscored 25-8 at the free-throw line.

That caused Illini coach Brad Underwood to crack after the game that his team was apparently trying to set a Nebraska record for getting Palmer to the line.

"As a team we definitely wanted to get to the free-throw line," Palmer said. "We knew they would extend their defense and pressure, so we wanted to get to the basket."

That pressure led to the Huskers attempting a season-low 14 three-pointers, the first time this season NU has shot less than 20 threes in a game. But Nebraska hit six, with Palmer going 3-for-6, Glynn Watson going 2-for-4 and Isaac Copeland making his only attempt.

Copeland finished with 16 points and five boards while Watson, despite battling foul trouble most of the way, finished with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes of playing time.

It was just the second time this season Illinois was beaten by double digits. Nebraska's 15-point margin of victory was one point less than Iowa State's over the Illini in Maui, Hawaii, and Illinois' 60 points were a season low.

Nebraska led by nine or more for the game's final 23 minutes but didn't fully put things away until, up 10, Palmer hit a pair of free throws, Isaiah Roby fed Copeland for his three-pointer, then grabbed a rebound and went coast-to-coast for a 17-point lead with 3:40 left.

lllinois hit six of its first nine shots out of the locker room but missed 15 of its final 23. Trent Frazier, averaging 16 points per game, finished with nine. Five-star freshman Ayo Dosunmu, averaging 14, finished with 10 to go with five turnovers.

Nebraska never trailed, bolting to leads of 11-2 and 15-5.

"Coach always emphasizes playing with a lead, and I think this four-game stretch we have (Illinois, Minnesota, Creighton, Oklahoma State), we need to play with a lead in all those games because they're all tough, good teams," Copeland said. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or cbasnett@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.

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Husker basketball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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