'The same-old, same-old': No. 10 Michigan State misfires in 56-55 loss to Illinois
Champaign, Ill. — Michigan State played one of its best games of the season in Friday’s victory at Wisconsin.
Four days later, it took the Spartans the better part of two halves before they came anything close. Even a late flurry couldn’t save No. 10 Michigan State, which couldn’t overcome a miserable shooting night in a 56-55 loss to No. 24 Illinois Tuesday at the State Farm Center.
Malik Hall had a chance to tie the game with two free throws with 0.2 seconds to play, but he missed the first, essentially ending the game as Hall made the second while trying to miss.
Illinois played without Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Kofi Cockburn and guard Andre Curbelo, but the Spartans could not take advantage, shooting just 35%, including 3-for-14 from 3-point range.
First-half turnovers were also critical as Michigan State (15-4, 6-2 Big Ten) gave it away nine times as Illinois built a 14-point lead.
Marcus Bingham Jr. led the scoring for Michigan State with 13 points while Gabe Brown added 10, but a 19-for-55 shooting game did in the Spartans.
“It was the same-old, same-old,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “We turn the ball over nine times in the first half and we’re consistently inconsistent.
“This is an Illinois team that can light it up from anywhere. But when you turn the ball over like we did, that's how you lose. Every time we take a step forward, we have guys take two steps backwards.”
Senior guard Trent Frazier made the absence of two of the Fighting Illini’s best players seem like nothing more than a nuisance as he scored 16 points, 10 in a row at one point in the first half, while getting in the lane at will and causing all sorts of defensive issues for the Spartans.
"It was a hell of a team effort," said Frazier, who moved into the top 10 in career scoring at Illinois. "This win tonight is a culture win. It's what it's all about. It's a special win. A lot of guys stepped up tonight."
Alfonso Plummer added 11 points for the Fighting Illini (14-5, 7-2), who overcame a scoreless skid of 5:32 to close the game out.
"I couldn't be prouder and happier for a group of guys in that locker room than I was tonight," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. "Who gave us a chance? It doesn't matter how many men you're down. When you've got character and guys that are together, you can do a lot of things. ... You find a way.
“We had a goal going in to hold them under four threes. We held their main wing guys out of the 3-point line. We felt like if we did that, we’d give ourselves a chance."
After a quick 5-0 start for Michigan State to open the game, it was all Illinois from there.
A 17-4 surge from the Fighting Illini complete with seven made shots in a row swung the momentum and had the home crowd buzzing.
The Spartans managed to pull within 17-14 after five straight points from Brown, but then went scoreless for more than five minutes as Illinois pushed the lead to double digits, using a 7-0 run to take a 24-14 lead.
Michigan State chipped away with a couple of buckets and had the ball with a chance to pull within four points. But after a missed jumper from Max Christie, Illinois scored seven in a row, taking advantage of Michigan State’s poor shooting and turnovers.
After a jumper from Tyson Walker, the Spartans turned the ball over for the ninth time in the opening half and the Illini answered with a triple in the corner Jacob Grandison to take a 34-20 lead into the locker room at halftime after the Spartans failed to convert on their final possession.
Illinois continued to pour it on in the second half as Michigan State failed to find any offensive rhythm. The Spartans cut the deficit down to single digits at 36-27, but the Illini once again responded with six points in a row to take their biggest lead at that point, 42-27.
Michigan State pulled within 46-37, but immediately gave up another 3-pointer as the Illini pushed the lead back to double digits with 10:13 to play. The Spartans responded by getting the lead down to 52-44 and eventually got within 56-50 on a jumper from the corner by Joey Hauser with 3:51 left in the game.
Two free throws and a jumper in the lane from Hall got Michigan State within two points with just less than a minute to play. And after Frazier missed the front end of a one-and-one, Hall was fouled in the final seconds before splitting his free throws.
“We didn’t deserve to win,” Izzo said. “They deserved to win. Give us some credit for coming back, but they played better for most of the game.”