Michigan State dominates Illinois in second half


Austin Yattoni

Illinois guard Trent Frazier drives to the basket during the game against Nebraska at the State Farm Center on Sunday, Feb. 18.

By Will Gerard, Staff Writer

Illinois kept it close early in East Lansing but was plagued by another slow start out of the halftime intermission.

The visitors trailed by just three points at halftime, following a layup from freshman forward Greg Eboigbodin on a dish from fellow freshman point guard Trent Frazier with nine seconds remaining in the first half. However, No. 2 Michigan State proceeded to put together a 9-0 run, while also making its way into the bonus within the next 3:15 minutes of action.

Michigan State (27-3, 15-2 Big Ten) defeated Illinois (13-16, 3-13 Big Ten) 81-61, and as a result, it secured at least a share of a Big Ten title.

“All we talked about at halftime was, ‘We’ve got to throw the first punch, but let’s not go foul crazy,’” said head coach Brad Underwood. “We couldn’t let the momentum of the game change because we were fouling, and sure enough, we go out and six seconds in, we commit a foul.”

The Spartans would eventually stretch the lead to as much 23 points with just over three minutes left in the affair.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

As customary practice for senior night at Michigan State, three senior players kissed the Spartan logo on the Breslin Center floor shortly before time expired.

Illinois, on the other hand, moved into sole possession of last place in the conference and has still yet to win a true road game this season (0-10).

Minnesota, Rutgers and Iowa are now one game ahead of Illinois with two conference games remaining for each team before the Big Ten tournament in New York City.

The Illini were held to a season-low 32.7 percent from the field, whereas the Spartans finished at 47.1 percent.

“When we move the ball and play unselfish, we can be a really good offensive team,” Underwood said. “The second half is very evident of what happens to our basketball team when we don’t play unselfish.”

Underwood said his team “missed eight or nine layups in the first half.”

“They’re a very big team, so it’s kind of difficult to finish around the rim with that much length down there,” Frazier said. “We talked about spreading the ball around and getting good looks from the perimeter.”

Junior forward Leron Black managed to score a game-high 20 points (6-12 FG, 1-2 3FG) despite playing just six minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, although he was held to just two total rebounds by the Spartan front line.

Black, who is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, continued his strong offensive output as of late. He has averaged nearly 20 points per game over the previous four contests, coming off a career-high 28 points in a senior day victory over Nebraska on Sunday.

Michigan State outrebounded Illinois 40-28.

Just three Spartans scored in double figures behind a balanced scoring attack, including sophomore forward Miles Bridges, who led the charge with a team-high 19 points (4-11 FG).

The Spartan bench outscored the Illini 42-12.

Sophomore forward Kipper Nichols led the Illini with six rebounds, and Frazier was the only other player to score in double figures with 14 points (4-13 FG, 3-7 3FG).

Frazier dished out a team-high five assists, despite recording three of his team’s mere five turnovers over 34 minutes of play.

The Spartans took good care of the ball as well; they recorded just eight turnovers overall, seven of which occurred in the first half.

Senior guard Mark Alstork provided eight points, three assists and one steal in the first half, but he was only able to secure one additional board over the remaining duration of the game.

His steal at midcourt and ensuing uncontested layup – as a Michigan State ball boy scurried off the floor with a towel still in hand – was a crucial part of a 7-0 Illini run. It was capped off by a Frazier contested pull-up 3-pointer from the left wing to cut the Spartan lead to 21-20, not long after the mid-point of the first half.

“They just came out in the second half and had more energy than us,” Black said. “We fouled too much.”


[email protected]