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Nebraska at Illinois, 2/18

Nebraska players Tanner Borchardt (from left), Thorir Thorbjarnarson and Jack McVeigh carry off a teammate in a skit after a shot was made during the Huskers' game against Illinois on Sunday in Champaign, Ill.

It began a couple of years ago, mostly unnoticed, when Malcolm Laws and Johnny Trueblood started doing celebrations on the sideline when their teammates made big plays.

But, as Evan Taylor said Friday, "things change when you start winning."

It's been a big week for the gang of Nebraska reserves known as the Bench Mob. They've blown up on social media, videos of their celebrations piling up millions of views. As the Husker men's basketball team heads into Sunday's regular-season finale against Penn State at Pinnacle Bank Arena, the guys on the sideline are getting some of the same love normally reserved for their teammates on the court.

"It's interesting. It's nothing we expected," said Laws, a senior guard who will be recognized with classmates Taylor, Anton Gill and Duby Okeke before the game. "It's like, we just did something and didn't think too much of it. Then somebody was like, 'Oh, NCAA March Madness retweeted you guys.

"The guys like it, everybody else likes it and supports it, so let's just do something to have more fun with it."

The fun has become a phenomenon. The plan is to hand out 2,000 #Benchmob T-shirts before Sunday's game. ESPN and others have picked up on the antics. As the Huskers (21-9, 12-5 Big Ten) continue to play themselves onto the national stage, the exposure will only grow. 

Huskers' 'Bench Mob' hits the big time on social media

For the players involved — Laws, Trueblood, Jack McVeigh, Thorir Thorbjarnarson, Tanner Borchardt and Justin Costello — it's all part of the good vibes that have surrounded the Huskers in recent weeks.

"It's kinda wild," McVeigh said. "We kind of started as a joke, just for a good laugh. And then people requested some more things, and we're like, let's give it to the people. Now it's everywhere."

The celebrations range from the sublime — a re-enactment of WWE superstar Randy Orton's RKO during the Indiana game was particularly well-done — to the ridiculous: a less-than-enthusiastic macarena that left NU head coach Tim Miles unimpressed. But the Bench Mob lives to entertain, and they have their coach's blessing.

The first few times it happened, Miles said he would pause the video during film study to make sure everyone saw what was going on. He doesn't have that problem anymore.

"I don't mind it. As long as it's not disrespectful to your opponent, I don't really care. I'm glad to see them having fun," Miles said. "I think the guys (who play) love it. They're kind of interested in what's going on.

"But these guys have to handle celebrity now," the coach joked. "They gotta be careful."

It's been a way for McVeigh, the owner of perhaps the most happy-go-lucky personality on the team, to stay engaged during games in a season that hasn't gone the way he hoped on the court.

After starting 11 games last season and playing in 30 of Nebraska's 31 contests while finishing as the team's fourth-leading scorer, McVeigh has appeared in just 14 games this season, and just twice since Dec. 22.

"I think it's just one of those things where I'm making the most of a different opportunity. Not everything goes as planned, but everything happens for a reason, and it's been fun and I've just made the most of the situation I'm in," McVeigh said. "And that's all you can do, really. Just be a good teammate, giving them good scout looks, and then just having fun on the bench."

As long as the Huskers keep winning, the fun figures to continue.

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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