CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois head coach Brad Underwood returned to the bench with about seven minutes left on the clock before halftime ended Tuesday night. He was all alone, with his team still in the locker room, an unusually early entrance for the head coach out of the break.

“I pretty much got everything said in about 30 seconds,” Underwood said about being in the locker room with his team up one to Nebraska. “I wasn’t going to sit in there and re-diagram anything up, wasn’t really in the mood to listen to my staff at that time so I just came out and had a few peaceful moments and enjoyed the fans.”

Unhappy with his team’s first half performance against the Huskers, especially defensively, after the Huskers shot 52 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes and 45 percent from 3, Underwood’s team got the message. The Illini flipped the script in the second half, especially in the final 12 minutes of the game only giving up eight points, on their way to a 72-56 win over Nebraska to sweep the regular season series.

“Coach Brad being Coach Brad,” Illinois freshman Ty Rodgers said about halftime.

“Halftime was Coach Brad, I think he was a little frustrated with us,” Illinois freshman Sencire Harris said. “We knew what we needed to do step up. That first half was not us, very poor. We had to step up.”

The Illini (16-6, 7-4 B1G) were ice cold to start the game, trailing by as many as seven points at 12-5. It took a run at the end of the first half to give Illinois a 38-37 lead at the break, shooting just 38 percent from the field and 23 percent from beyond the arc. The struggles from 3 didn’t get much better in the final 20, with the Illini only going 5-for-29 for the game.

Illinois got a team high 16 points from Matthew Mayer, with four players in double-figures including 13 from Terrence Shannon Jr., 12 from Jayden Epps and 10 from Coleman Hawkins. Illini freshmen Ty Rodgers (7 points, 7 rebounds) and Sencire Harris (8 points, 4-for-4 from the field) both provided big sparks for the Illini, especially in the second half.

“For me it’s been 100 percent mental,” Rodgers said about finding success. “Just knowing some games I’m going to play 15-plus minutes, other games I’m going to play five minutes. Just stay hungry, staying aggressive.”

“We always know what that, what we need to bring, which is that energy,” said Harris about his role. “It’s crazy how we bring it every time.”

“Those guys are all really good players,” Underwood said about his freshmen. “I’m happy for them and we needed them tonight. In a night when we weren’t our sharpest, they were.”

Turnovers were a big issue for both teams but especially the Huskers, who committed 19. The Illini were whistled for 13 turnovers. Other key stats in Illinois’ favor: 12-2 fast break points and 36-22 points in paint.

Illinois returns to the court Saturday afternoon visiting Iowa for a 1:30 tip-off at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.