FINAL: Michigan State 79, Illinois 54
Michigan State 62, Illinois 34; 11:48 left 2H
You know this Spartans team will only be better in the long run with Denzel Valentine out of the lineup. Bryn Forbes now has the confidence to be a go-to guy. Tum Tum Nairn now has the confidence to run the team. Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid are playing big roles. Oh, and Izzo. I wouldn't want to play this team in the tournament.
Michigan State 58, Illinois 28; 15:46 left 2H
The Illini look lost and beaten. Four of their best players aren't playing. The player screaming in the huddle is Tracy Abrams, who hasn't played the last season and a half.
HALF: Michigan State 47, Illinois 22
There will be many hot takes after this game. Yes, it is one of the most embarrassing of Groce's tenure. No, Illinois is not executing on offense nor defense. But they are without four of their top five players. That matters. It's just ugly. The question is whether Groce's team can fight through this or if it beats them down with plenty of season left to play. Five Spartans have more than six points. Morgan (9 points) and Lewis (6 points) lead the Illini.
FG: ILL 26%, MSU 61%
3FG: ILL 1-8, MSU 5-10
FT: ILL 7-10, MSU 4-5
Rebounds: ILL 12, MSU 22
Assists: ILL 4, MSU 16
Turnovers: ILL 5,MSU 6
Michigan State 39, Illinois 18; 4:05 left 1H
Just a bloodbath. Illinois hasn't made a FG in the last 7:20.
Michigan State 27, Illinois 15; 8:02 left 1H
The Illini are struggling to find offense. No surprise without Nunn. Hill and Morgan are the go-to guys right now with post entries. But the Illini haven't had a lot of movement. Basically trying to get Hill in ball screens with Morgan and Finke. But without Nunn, there aren't many options on the reversal. JCL is 0-3.
Michigan State 21, Illinois 15; 11:18 left 1H
The short-handed Illini are competing hard tonight. A mumps-less Khalid Lewis has been a spark off the bench. He's attacking the hoop and has six points. Hill came back in with two fouls at the 14:40 mark. THe Illini have to have him on the court or they have no chance. Aaron Jordan has provided a spark defensively. If he's more reliable there, he'll be on the court more.
Michigan State's ball movement is something to watch. They have 7 assists on 8 field goals.
Michigan State 16, Illinois 7, 15:14 left 1H
Well, this is going about how we'd expect. Illinois is actually getting some good shots offensively (Morgan has four quick points and FInke has a three) but they can't stop MSU. They're trying to run a 2-3 zone but Sparty is 3-5 from 2 and 2-3 from three.
To make matters worse, Malcolm Hill picked up two fouls in the first 2:25, including an offensive foul. Groce was steaming mad at the officials. He may take out a little frustration tonight.
I was wrong on my starting lineup. John Groce is going big against the Spartans
- Jaylon Tate
- Jalen Coleman-Lands
- Malcolm Hill
- Michael Finke
- Mav Morgan
20 minutes to tipoff
Oh, hey. Dane Fife just came over to my seat, shook my hand and introduced himself. "You keep me informed," he said. I don't know if Illini fans will likely anymore. The Michigan State assistant and former Indiana player isn't exactly beloved in Champaign.
My ears may be bleeding during and after this game. No, it's not the Izzone. The students are still on break. But the alumni pep band is LOUD. I kinda like it. Good, older play selection too. This place won't be as loud without the students, of course. But given the mismatch, they may have plent to cheer about.
Illinois has 10 players dressed today, one preseason starter (Malcolm Hill). Four players are in street clothes, including three likely preseason starters (Tracy Abrams, Mike Throne Jr. and Leron Black).
Piper -- Lon Tay called him "Pipes" today, I kinda like it -- and I have pretty great seats on the baseline. Other Illini beat writers who made the trip include Mark Tupper, Scott Richey and Shannon Ryan. Read their stuff.
40 minutes to tipoff
First of all, congratulations to Kendrick Nunn. I think it goes without saying -- but I'm going to say it anyway -- that he made the right decision to be present at the birth of his child.
A Division I athlete with a child isn't that rare. Dee Brown raised children when he was at Illinois, as did Deron Williams. But it is rare for a player to miss a game because the birth occurred during a game.
Illinois basketball has had it all though this season: preseason injuries, early season injuries, mumps and now a child birth. What's next: alien abduction? Early retirement?
My prediction on the Illini lineup tonight: Jaylon Tate, Malcolm Hill, Jalen Coleman-Lands, Michael Finke and ... Alex Austin.
Khalid Lewis is available but his minutes probably should be minimized as he comes back from the mumps. Aaron Jordan just hasn't played well lately.
Izzo told the pregame radio that Denzel Valentine WILL NOT PLAY.
One hour until tipoff
Greetings from Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich.!
Apologies for the late start, but Derek Piper and I have been working on the breaking news all afternoon.
Yes, Kendrick Nunn will miss tonight's game to attend the birth of his first child.
Nunn is averaging 18.5 points per game, tied for most in the Big Ten along with Michigan State senior guard Denzel Valentine, who is expected to miss tonight's game with a knee injury but is going through warmups.
Illinois had a contingency plan in place to fly Nunn to East Lansing if the child arrived early, but that did not happen.
Obviously this is a big blow to Illinois' chances tonight. The Illini will have eight scholarship players available against MSU.
Illinois already is short-handed due to multiple injuries -- Mike Thorne Jr. (knee), Leron Black(knee), Tracy Abrams (Achilles) -- and senior guard Khalid Lewis will return tonight after missing two games with the mumps.
Lewis is cleared to play. Groce was unsure of how many minutes he'd play, but the senior guard may be forced to play extra minutes tonight.
The Illini will need stellar efforts from Malcolm Hill, Michael Finke and Jalen Coleman-Lands (combined 65 points?) to have a chance tonight.
Earlier today, I thought the 13.5-poing line for this game in Vegas seemed a bit high. Now, it seems a bit low.