Spartans take control

Spartans take control

By Lucas Deal

INDIANAPOLIS – For the first time in Big Ten Tournament history, Illinois is one and done.

Six-seeded Michigan State (22-10) jumped out to an early lead and withstood several Illinois rallies late in the game to hold on to a 61-56 win over the No. 3-seeded Illini in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Support the Daily Illini in College Media Madness!

Help the Daily Illini take back the top spot in the College Media Madness fundraising competition! See the current ranking here.

learn more
donate now

“We have no one to blame but ourselves,” Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said. “They came out with a high level of intensity and we couldn’t match it.”

Both teams exchanged baskets early in the game before the Spartans finally grabbed the lead at 23-20. Michigan State was still up 30-25 late in the half when MSU guard Maurice Ager was forced to the bench.

    Subscribe to our sports newsletter!

    From the football field to the tennis court, stay up to date on all things Illini sports from the the best student sports journalists in the Midwest.

    The loss of Ager left the Spartans with only two starters on the floor, but the Illini were unable to take advantage of Michigan State’s bench and went into the half trailing 36-29.

    The Spartans extended their lead to 41-31 early in the second half before Illinois (25-6) finally went on the comeback trail.

    A three-point play by James Augustine, who led the Illini with 16 points and 15 rebounds, cut the score to 41-34, and a Dee Brown lay-up and a Rich McBride three-pointer made it 41-39.

    The Spartans pushed their lead back to five but the Illini again rallied, closing to within one at 44-43.

    The teams then seesawed for several minutes before two Rich McBride free throws made it 55-54 with a minute and a half remaining.

    Michigan State missed their next shot but grabbed the offensive rebound and scored to take a three-point lead.

    Illinois then had a chance to tie the game on a three by Dee Brown, but his open jumper rimmed out.

    The Spartans iced the game on free throws.

    “The margin was something we could just never overcome,” Weber said. “We didn’t play with the effort we needed.”

    On the other side of the things, the win was especially satisfying for the Spartans, who had already lost twice to the Illini during the regular season.

    “With the chance of this being the last time we get to play them, we feel pretty good to be going out this way,” said Spartans’ center Paul Davis, who finished the game with 16 points. “We don’t want to have any regrets.”

    And yet, MSU head coach Tom Izzo said he’s going to miss playing Illinois’ two seniors, especially Dee Brown.

    “The Big Ten Conference is going to miss Dee Brown,” he said. “He’s good for this league and I’ll always have respect for him.”

    Weber said he’ll obviously miss his seniors too, but right now he’s more focused on getting his team ready for the NCAA Tournament.

    “I hope this hurt the guys a little bit,” he said. “Because if we lose again, we don’t get to play anymore.”

    Augustine added, “This is it, if this happens again Dee and my careers are over. We have to come (to the NCAA Tournament) ready to play.”