After trailing to Illinois by as many as 10 points in the first half, No. 18 Michigan State fought back and tied the game going into half, and that set the pace for the rest of the contest.
Early on, the Fighting Illini (12-18, 4-13) made their game-plan clear, going inside to Shaun Pruitt on every possession.
But after making three of the Illini's first five baskets and scoring 11 points in the first half, the Spartans (24-6, 12-5) denied Pruitt inside the paint, holding him to just two points total, both on free-throws, in the second half.
Tight MSU defense along with careless Illini turnovers led to a 14-4 MSU comeback in the first half.
After Drew Naymick's basket tied the game at 29, Travis Walton stole the ball from Demetri McCamey and fed a streaking Drew Neitzel for a layup to give MSU their first lead.
Despite Calvin Brock's layup to tie the game at 31 going into half, MSU had the momentum and control, showing it to open the second session with an 11-3 run.
It was Naymick who played big throughout the game, especially in the second half. He scored the first two baskets of the half, with Drew Neitzel following with a three-pointer on the fast break.
Naymick would go on to score 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the unusual variety from the outside.
After some halftime defensive adjustments, MSU would look to Naymick high at the top of the key, and the 6-foot-10 senior would hit.
"I told him (Naymick) he was going to have to take that shot in the second half because of their defense," said coach Tom Izzo. "He really gave us a lift, when we started doubling those ball screens, to be able to go out high to him is great."
Along with his offense, his physicality on Pruitt shut down the Illini big-man to just one shot in the second half.
After their 11-3 run to start the second half, MSU would roll, leading by at least three points throughout.
Neitzel finished with 17 points on 3-of-8 from three while Goran Suton recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Additionally, it was a big road win for MSU, who has struggled on the road the last few years in conference play.
"It was a big win for us because most of our people don't think we can win games on the road," said Izzo."
Michigan State will now finish their regular season on Sunday at Ohio State, who they will be facing twice in five days, seeing them in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament as the 4 vs. 5 matchup.
*MSU Postgame Audio*
Illinois Post-Game: MSU Gets Big Road Win
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