Illini End Regular Season With Victory

Winning in the Breslin Center is never easy, but under Bruce Weber, the Fighting Illini are still undefeated against the Spartans with Saturday's 75-68 victory. The Illini had five players in double figures, including four starters. Dee Brown led the way for Illinois scoring 20 points, 16 in the second half. Michigan State was led by Senior Paul Davis' 21 points and 14 rebounds.

In order to keep any hope of a third straight Big Ten Championship alive, the Fighting Illini needed to spoil a second straight Senior Night in their game against Michigan State on Saturday afternoon. The Illini's 75-68 victory over kept the Illini one back in the loss column to Big Ten leading Ohio State, leaving a very small sliver of hope for the conference championship. If Purdue defeats Ohio State on Sunday afternoon in Columbus, the Illini, Buckeyes, and Iowa Hawkeyes (who defeated Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon in Iowa City) would be in a tie atop the Big Ten standings.

In the first half on Saturday afternoon, the Illini suffered through some foul trouble to starters Dee Brown and Brian Randle, as well as reserve Marcus Arnold. Even with the foul trouble against their starting point guard and their defensive stopper, Illinois entered halftime trailing by just one point. When the Illini went to the locker room they thought they had a one point lead, though. After initially ruling Jamar Smith's jumper left his hands before time expired at the end of the half, Ed Hightower, Bert Smith, and Eugene Crawford went back to the monitor before the second half started and correctly ruled Jamar's shot did not leave his hands in time.

The Spartans and the Illini went back and forth with the lead for the first seven minutes of the second half until a Dee Brown three-pointer with 12:34 on the clock broke a forty-eight all tie. The Illini proceeded to score the next nine points on two threes from Jamar Smith and another from Dee Brown, giving the Illini a 60-48 lead they would never relinquish. There were times when it looked like the Spartans could come back, most notably when Shannon Brown turned a 1-on-3 break into a slam dunk that looked like momentum would be in favor of Michigan State from then on.

The closest Michigan State could get to the Illini was four points. The Spartans got to within four points on two different occasions, and each time Illini senior forward James Augustine ended the Spartan rally with a basket on the other side of the court.

In going away from their season numbers from the free throw line, the Fighting Illini were able to close out Michigan State at the charity stripe. In the final minute and thirty seconds, the Illini made five of six free throws. Guards Rich McBride and Jamar Smith both were perfect from the free throw line, while Senior James Augustine made one of two at the one minute mark, the Illini's final points of the game. Illinois finished out the game shooting 15-of-18, 83.3%, from the free throw line, almost twenty percent more than their season average.

Offensive Efficiency: 119.2
Defensive Efficiency: 108.1
Offensive Rebounding Percentage: 21.4%
Defensive Rebounding Percentage: 58.6%

For the second time this season, Dee Brown has had a great game against the Michigan State Spartans putting a great book end on his final Big Ten season. While Brown did not score 34-points and carry the Illini completely on his back on Saturday like he did in Champaign, it was Brown's energy and three point shooting that sparked the Illini's run in the second half. After picking up two fouls in the first half, Brown had to watch from the bench, but in the second half "Dee Brown took over" according to Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo. Izzo went on to say "[Brown] is the MVP of the league because he just makes plays. Dee Brown is for them what Mateen Cleaves was for us. Some guys just have a will to win."

  • The next game for the Illini will be Friday night in Indianapolis as they take on the winner of the (6) Michigan vs. (11) Purdue game in the Quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. If Illinois can advance to the Semifinals, they will continue to be the only team that has reached the Big Ten Tournament Semifinals every year of the tournament's existence.
  • Illinois senior forward James Augustine pulled down 6 rebounds. He only needs 3 more in Friday night's Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinal to become the firs player in Illinois' history to record 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in their career.

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