Men’s basketball team fights, takes win against Michigan State

Illini nation packed the Assembly Hall on Saturday night as Illinois defeated No. 5 Michigan State, 78-73, to cap off ESPN College GameDay’s stop in Champaign.

A sea of orange stormed the court following the final buzzer, as the Fighting Illini moved into a tie for second place in the Big Ten with the victory.

Junior forward Mike Davis said the Assembly Hall crowd Saturday might have been the loudest he’s heard it in his career.

“The crowd was great,” Davis said. “They were the sixth man tonight, they kept us in it. Every time (Michigan State) made a run, they got loud and they disrupted the offense a little bit.”

Illinois (16-8, 8-3 Big Ten) benefited from veteran leadership on the night, as junior guard Demetri McCamey scored 22 and added a game-high 11 assists. Davis came off the bench to add 16 points.

“I’m not trying to prove that I’m one of the top players in the country or anything like that, I personally don’t care,” McCamey said. “I just want Illinois to get to the tournament and do big things, and all the other things will come.”

Not to be left out of the action, freshman guard D.J. Richardson added 14 points on the night.

“I was just motivated, and Demetri talked to me a lot at the dorms and just told me we got to be ready to play tonight,” Richardson said.

Michigan State (19-5, 9-2) was without the services of the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, Kalin Lucas. The junior guard suffered a sprained ankle in the Spartan’s loss at Wisconsin on Tuesday.

Lucas is the Spartan’s offensive leader, averaging 15.6 points a game.

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber wasn’t expecting to see Lucas on Saturday night, but he told his team it didn’t matter whether Lucas played or not, the Spartans would still come to play.

“They have a lot of weapons,” Weber said. “They played at a high level, I thought.”

Spartans sophomore forward Draymond Green stepped in to lead the offense with 17 points while grabbing 16 rebounds.

Junior guard Chris Allen joined the Michigan State offensive effort with 15 points.

Green drew praise from Spartans head coach Tom Izzo.

“Draymond Green might have had one of the greatest single performances,” Izzo said. “If I looked at it from what he accomplished and what he did — rebounding the ball, scoring the ball, defending everybody on the court. I needed more guys to step up and do that.”

The Illini opened the game on a 14-4 run to the roar of a sellout crowd, but the Spartans pulled to within one at the half.

It was a battle the rest of the way, as the score was tied eight times in the second half.

Illinois used a 9-0 run to grab a 64-57 lead with 7:17 left before Michigan State tied it at 68 apiece with just under two minutes to play.

However, Brandon Paul’s layup with 1:19 remaining put Illinois up for good, and Richardson made three free throws down the stretch to help hold off the Spartans.

Coming into the game, the Illini had an axe to grind with the Spartans after falling in East Lansing, Mich., on Jan. 16.

The Orange and Blue came out Saturday with the intention of showing off the strides they’ve made since the first matchup.

“Tonight we just wanted to fight for 40 minutes. And tonight they made their runs, we made ours, and they came back, they kept fighting and never gave up until the end,” McCamey said. “So I just want to give my guys credit, we played for 40 minutes, probably the first time we did this all season. It feels great.”