State had the opportunity of a lifetime in hosting a number one
team on their home court. With this being the only regular season
match-up between the two Big Ten powerhouses, expectations were
high. Unfortunately, it was a game of weak perimeter defense, a
rain of three pointers, and a game where the Illini showed the nation
why they are number one by beating the Spartans 81-68.
Michigan State came out strong in the first half holding strong
with the Illini. With the game Tied at 12, the Illini pulled ahead
and never looked back. Fueled by a 13-24 rain of three pointers,
Illinois all but drowned Michigan State’s chance of winning
the Big Ten title.
At halftime, Illinois led 41-33. Spartans head coach Izzo wanted
to get the ball more inside to Paul Davis to try and create some
plays. The Illinois guards were too quick on the perimeter, and
the shots weren’t falling for the Spartans. Illinois pulled
away farther and farther, and led by as many as 15 points. Michigan
State’s dormant shooting and Paul Davis’ weak inside
game didn’t help the Spartans’ cause. One last late
game effort brought the game within six points, but it wouldn’t
be enough. Illinois finished strong, and the Spartans were history.
Michigan State rushed shots, failed to grab second chance points,
and were weak on the transition. They were lax on defense and seemed
off balance most of the second half. Questions again swirl around
the lack of toughness in this Michigan State team.
Illinois forced turnovers and transitioned well. They shot lights
out and were virtually unstoppable behind the arch. A true number
one proving why they could very well end up undefeated, and why
they will contend for a final four position in the big dance this
Michigan State has not looked strong since the beginning of the
season. They’ve struggled to find shots and struggled to make
free throws. They wear down quickly in games and often seem to play
down to their opponents. They’ve played only two ranked teams
with both resulting in a loss. Often they find themselves in the
transition and cannot complete the task. They lack mental toughness
needed to play in the Big Ten under Tom Izzo.
Looking ahead in the Big Ten is a fairly tough schedule. Minnesota
is playing well, Purdue is improving, and they face a ranked Wisconsin.
Some would even argue that traveling to Indiana should be a concern
for the Spartans.
Players need to start stepping up and stepping up quickly. Paul
Davis has proven he cannot compete on a consistent level from night
to night, and Maurice Ager is proving to be a sub par version of
the player we thought he was. Chris Hill and sixth man Kelvin Torbert
have showed promise, but it isn’t enough to win tough games.
We haven’t even mentioned the Big Ten tournament. Right now
isn’t the time for that. There is too much work to be done
with this Michigan State basketball team. They first have to continue
to work no their mental toughness. After that the winning will come
easier and they can think about contending for a win in the Big
For now we have to look back on this much anticipated match-up and
wonder what went wrong. Could it be that Illinois is that much better
than Michigan State? If that’s true, what does it say about
a Wisconsin team that only lost by 10 points to the Illini?
Tom Izzo won’t stand by and watch his team go into meltdown.
He’ll find ways to motivate his team and grow from this experience.
This will come even as they remember watching Illinois ride off
into the sunset yelling “see you in March.”