Free-throw shooting dooms MSU against Illinois

Spartans hit just 7 of 18 free throws in five-point loss to Illinois on Saturday as the Spartans continue their home struggles.

Michigan State was on the verge of getting run out of Breslin Center on Saturday.

But the Spartans clawed back and kept the game close possession after possession and with 1:21 left, Travis Trice hit a 3 to pull MSU within 53-52.

That was as close as the Spartans would get, as they dropped 59-54 against Illinois.

Michigan State never led after leading 14-13 with 8:59 to go in the first half. Free throws again were a struggle for the Spartans, who shot just 7 of 18 from the line.

Those struggles were especially evident late in the game. Travis Trice went to the line with 33.2 seconds left and hit the first free throws. Illinois guard Jaylon Tate came in hard to box out Trice and was assessed a technical after video review.

But the Spartans could not capitalize down 55-53 as Trice missed the second, Bryn Forbes missed the first technical FT before making the second to pull within 55-54.

The Spartans got the ball following the technical with another chance to take the lead, but Denzel Valentine’s shot near the hoop – with the attempt to draw the foul – was no good.

Illinois hit its final four free throws to win.

It was a same old story for Michigan State, which struggled at home once again. Since beating Indiana 70-50 on Jan.. 5., the Spartans have beaten Northwestern in overtime, snuck out a win against Penn State and beat Michigan in overtime in their home games.

The offense was all Denzel Valentine as he had a team-high 16 points and hit four 3-pointers. Branden Dawson had 12 points as he and Valentine had accounted for all 22 points for the Spartans in the second half until Trice hit the 3-pointer with 1:21 to go.

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