The Spartans got a big lift from junior forward Raymar Morgan who scored 14 points and six rebounds, by far his best effort after recovering from a long illness. Freshman Delvon Roe continued his late-season surge by scoring 10 points and seven rebounds.
Michigan State got off to a fast start, jumping out to an early 7-1 lead and after the Illini closed to within three, Korie Lucious and Goran Suton made back-to-back jumpers to give MSU a seven-point halftime lead.
Early in the second half, the Spartans led by nine but the Illini hung around and after going on a 10-3 run, tied the score at 58 with just 5:14 remaining. But Lucas hit a jumper and MSU got a stop on an Idong Ibok block of a Mike Tisdale shot attempt and Travis Walton hit a jumper sandwiched around two Lucas' free throws.
The Illini would get no closer than eight points, the final margin of victory.
For the Spartans, they have a shot to win the outright title by defeating Indiana at Assembly Hall in Bloomington on Tuesday. They also could garner a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if they go on to win the Big Ten Tournament championship.