The lineup shuffle that inserted freshmen Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill into the starting unit five games ago appeared to inject confidence into the young players and life into Illinois.
What wasn't so clear was how the move would affect fifth-year seniors Joseph Bertrand and Jon Ekey.
At first it seemed the answer was "not so well."
Through the first four games after their move to the bench, Bertrand totaled seven points with two scoreless games, shooting 3 of 16. Ekey started out strong with nine points at Penn State but in the next three games hit only 1 of 9 3-pointers.
In Wednesday's 60-49 victory against Nebraska, the two showed up. Ekey had eight points, six rebounds and three steals, while Bertrand scored all six of his points in the first half.
"The guys who had to adjust and adapt a little (were) Jon and Joe," coach John Groce said. "(Against Nebraska) was the first time Jon and Joe in that role really excelled, in addition to the young guys playing well. They were really active coming off the bench. They were superb."
Nunn (13 points) and Hill (10) continued to show progress. But for the Illini (16-12, 5-10 Big Ten) to end the season on a strong note, they'll need multiple players contributing as they got Wednesday, when their bench added 18 points.
Ekey and Bertrand combined for six offensive rebounds as the Illini had an 11-3 edge in that category.
"At halftime we had 27 points; nine of them were off of Jon and Joe's (five) offensive rebounds," Groce said. "They continued to be very aggressive in the second half."
Hustle plays: With the State Farm Center roaring and a victory in reach, Ekey dived into the stands, saving a loose ball and encapsulating what never has waned in this otherwise disappointing season: hustle.
"I felt bad," Ekey said. "I tackled one of the cheerleaders. Hopefully he's OK."
Illinois converted 15 Nebraska turnovers - 11 of them on steals - into 24 points and added 16 second-chance points, outrebounding the Cornhuskers 34-28.
Nebraska coach Tim Miles quickly mentioned Illinois' effort after his team's five-game winning streak was snapped.
"You have to credit Illinois," he said. "They won this game with hustle points. Forty of their 60 points were off turnovers and second-chance points."
Layups: With the loss, Nebraska's NCAA tournament hopes took a hit as a team teetering on the bubble. "You're at a time of year where you have to win or you can't afford to lose," Miles said. ... Nunn has hit 8 of his last 11 3-pointers. ... After turning the ball over seven times with only one steal in the first half, Illinois committed only two more turnovers and had 10 steals after halftime. It was the second time this season Illinois had double-digit steals after getting 11 in its victory against Indiana.