Dee Brown scored 20 points to lead the Illini (25-5, 11-5). Brown scored a season-high 34 points against the Spartans to open Big Ten conference play. He continued his hot shooting streak against Michigan State on Saturday to close out the regular season with an anothe rhuge performance against the Spartans. Brown was 5-10 from behind the arc and scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half to help the Illini pull away from the Spartans.
"Dee Brown just killed us then, and Dee Brown killed us now," coach Tom Izzo said afetr the game.
Up until the halfway point in the second half, the game featured eight ties and 13 lead changes. The Illini almost lost James Augustine to an ankle injury early int he first half. Augustine had to go to the training room after getting stepped on by Michigan State forward Groan Suton. Augustine made it back into the game without any problems and scored 10 points.
The Illini went on a 12-0 run midway through the second half. The game was tied 48-48 before four consecutive three-point baskets. The Spartans were unable to hack into the lead and the Illini were able to pull away for the victory. Shaun Pruitt and Rich McBride each chipped in 12 points and played pivotal roles in the Illini victory.
"You've got to give credit to Illinois and Dee Brown, who almost single handedly was responsible for that 12-0 run," said Izzo.
Michigan State was lead by Senior Paul Davis with 21 points and 14 rebounds in his last game ever at the Breslin Center. Shannon Brown added 20 points and Maurice Ager had 15. The rest of the team combined for just 12 points, which has been a problem for the Spartans all season.
"I was disappointed, I felt like we were a step slow all day," Izzo said. "We've got some beat up guys in there right now, we need some rest, and, we'll try to get Trannon back in there and we'll go from there."
Michigan State go the lead to as close as six points with just two minutes remaining in the game but weren't able to get a defensive stop on the Illini. Illiniois ended the regular season with two impressive victories on the road against Minnesota and Michigan State. With Dee Brown leading the way, the Illini will be a very tough opponent in March.
Michigan State has now lost five of it's last seven games. The Spartans didn't come through down the stretch in conference play and it will cost them in the Big Ten tournament. Michigan State will be playing in th eopening round on Thursday, this is the first time the Spartans haven't had a bye since the 1996-97 season.
Michigan State will try to get their players some rest this week before they get ready for post-season play. The Spartans had to say good-bye to seniors Maurice Ager and Paul Davis on Saturday in their final home game at home. Michigan State dropped just its' second home game of the season, where they have been dominant in the past 10 years.
Although Matt Trannon didn't play against Illinois on Saturday he will be expected to be in the line-up on Thursday for the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.Izzo has stressed the fact that his players are fatigued and Trannon will be a sight for sore eyes for the Spartan faithful.
"Wit Mo (Ager) and Drew (Neitzel) struggling there was more pressure on Shannon. The substitution pattern is thrwon off and guys are getting tired."
Although the Spartans won the battle on the boards (34-23) it wasn't enough tonight. The difference of the game was the perimeter shooting by Illinois compared to the Spartans. Illinois shot the ball 50 percent from behind the arc, and Michigan State managed to go just 3-12 from long distance. The Spartans also turned the ball over 15 times compared to the Illini's eight turnovers.
Both teams shot th eball extremely well from the free-throw line; Illinois didn't have a problem knocking down the free throws in the end. The Illini were an impressive 15-18 from the stripe which allowed them to ice the game on the road.