(East Lansing) – After 40 minutes of action, it all came down to two three-point shots as the Spartans knocked off No. 13 Illinois 68-65 at the Breslin Center.
With MSU leading 65-64, sophomore guard Chris Hill came off a double screen to knock down the decisive three-pointer to give the Spartans their third win in four games and snap their three-game losing streak to Illinois.
The Spartans win over Illinois (15-4 overall, 5-3 Big Ten) however, did not come without a bit of controversy.
After trailing by as many as 13 points in the first half the Spartans (12-8, 4-4) used a 10-2 run that was capped off by a three-point heave from sophomore forward Alan Anderson just before the half.
The shot was questionable because it appeared that Anderson did not get the shot off before the game clock had expired.
The referees counted the basket which put MSU down just six at the break, 40-36. The NCAA rule says that only shots coming at the end of regulation or overtime may be reviewed.
In the second half, the Spartans momentum did not skip a beat. MSU used a quick 8-2 run to knot the game at 42, just 4 and a half minutes into the second half.
MSU got its first lead of the game 30 seconds later when freshman guard Maurice Ager connected on three-point field goal making it 45-44.
The Spartans took of advantage when Illinois star player forward Brian Cook left the game with his fourth foul with more than 12 minutes remaining. Freshman forward Paul Davis enjoyed his best game as a Spartan, in Cook's absence, notching a season-high 15 points and grabbing 8 rebounds.
Davis notched nine of his points from the free throw line as the Spartans finished the game shooting 73 percent from the line. Sophomore forward Alan Anderson matched Davis's output with 15 points to lead the Spartans.
Cook contributed 13 points of 4-of-11 shooting to lead the Illini. Guard Luther Head was the next highest scorer with 11 points, which all came in the first half.
The Spartans struggled early on and fell behind early, which has been a problem for them this season. But unlike their earlier performance the Spartans persevered and came back to pick up the win
MSU turned the ball over five times in the first four minutes and gave up back-to-back uncontested layups to Illini guard Dee Brown.
The Spartans calmed down and turned the ball over just 12 times the rest of the game. Illinois matched the Spartans with 17 turnovers, but it was the Spartan's defense that changed the game around.
Illinois shot 53.6 percent from the field in the first half, but could only muster 25 points and seven field goals in the second stanza.
MSU will travel to Indiana on Saturday for a rematch with the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall.