LIVE! Illinois prepares for road test at Nebraska


LINCOLN, Neb. (WCIA) — It is certainly not a marquee match-up, Nebraska is last in the Big Ten and have not won a conference game yet with some bad losses.

This is a game Illinois is expected to win as favorites, and they need to win if they want to stay atop the league with Michigan State heading into a big weekend with Michigan and Purdue coming to Champaign.

One of the biggest storylines so far this season has been Andre Curbelo, who has not played since Nov. 23. Just four games for the dynamic sophomore, who went down with a concussion earlier this season. The Athletic reported Monday he was moving closer to becoming a full participant in the practice, but head coach Brad Underwood says after suffering a minor setback he still has done very little with a ball in his hands.

“I think one of the things we’re finding out with this process is you can take a step forward and have a couple steps back,” says Underwood. “Everything for him is predicated solely on his reaction to how he does in a workout as we progress forward with his workouts and conditioning, how he responds.”

Underwood added there is no cutoff for Curbelo playing this year, and if he can play, he will no matter how many games are left in the season.

One guy who continues to improve is Omar Payne. The 6’10” junior started the first three games when Kofi Cockburn was suspended. Now, he is settling into his role as Kofi’s backup and a key bench player.

“Things didn’t go quite like I expected but it was actually a good thing, coming in, learning from somebody that’s been here,” says Payne. “Kofi gives me tips everyday so it was actually kind of good that he came back so now I see what I’ve got to do and he made me more comfortable being on the team.”

“He gives us that burst that we need, that energy burst and a competitive spirit,” says Cockburn. “He competes hard, he’s fun to be around and elevates guys.”

Payne transferred from Florida after spending two years with the Gators.

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