It was a tough Friday night and tough game for Sparty at State Farm Center, Champaign, Illinois that ended Michigan State’s (12-5, 4-2) 7-0 winning streak.
The Spartans were disjointed in the first minutes of the first half, with a turnover by Jaden Aikens, a steal by Illini Matthew Mayer, capped off with a foul on A.J. Hoggard. Six-foot-six, 215 lb. Terrence Shannon Jr is already a force to reckon with—there’s no need for Michigan State to feed him and Illinois (12-4, 3-3) free throws.
The Spartans fouled early and often, committing four in less than six minutes only to cap the streak with a technical foul at 12:42 when Michigan State assistant coach Mark Montgomery disputed a no-call.
Four turnovers in less than six minutes didn’t help the Spartans either.
Shannon set them up and Matthew Mayer knocked them down—literally, in the case of Mayer, who blocked a career-high four shots in the first half. Shannon meanwhile scored 15 of 19 points by Illinois.
But despite all this, the Spartans clawed their way back. A Malik Hall layup tied the score 15-15 at 11:42—two minutes later A.J. Hoggard went up and Michigan State finally took the lead 21-19. Shannon went cold and the Spartans recovered their momentum, attacking the basket almost exclusively from inside the paint.
In fact, the Spartans made no three-pointers during the game. The Fighting Illini shot for 33.3% outside the paint.
Michigan State led 37-33 going into the second half. Dain Dainja and Joey Hauser opened with two-point jumpers. Free throws by Mady Sissoko and Tyson Walker put the score 42-35 at 18:41, the biggest Spartan lead of the game.
That was the story for much of the second half, with Michigan State holding the stubborn Illini at a 7-point deficit—increasing to 9 points after a technical foul by Illinois. It was Mayer who finally pulled his team out from under the Spartan rock with two consecutive layups that tied the score 54-54 at 9:10.
Dainja and Mayer helped the Illini take the lead again, battling against Walker and Hoggard. Walker tied the score 60-60 at 5:47 with a two-point jumper. Coleman Watkins responded with a three-pointer that helped put Illinois in the lead for the rest of the game.
Illinois won 75-66.
Malik Hall left at 7:28 in the second half due to an ankle injury.
The Spartans take on Purdue next on Monday, January 16.