Quantcast 2011 Michigan State Basketball: Michigan State vs Illinois

2011 Michigan State Basketball

 
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Michigan State Spartans vs Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball Recap

Michigan State 61, Illinois 57

 
They’re hanging by a thread, but at least they’re still hanging. The Michigan State Spartans aren’t used to living squarely on the middle of the NCAA Tournament bubble, but at least they didn’t fall any farther down the ladder on an urgent Saturday night in East Lansing, Michigan.

The Spartans, who have made the Final Four each of the past two seasons, are used to playing for second or third seeds at this time of year, but because of a Twilight Zone campaign in which nothing has gone right, coach Tom Izzo’s outfit is being forced to play for its NCAA Tournament life in the final 10 days of February. Placed in a must-win situation by an accumulation of losses (11 in all and seven in the Big Ten Conference), Sparty sweated bullets on its home floor at the Breslin Center against the Illinois Fighting Illini. Fortunately for the guys in green, they did just enough to dig out a four-point win and keep their NCAA hopes alive.

Spartans Apparel This was not an easy game for Michigan State. The Spartans still didn’t get the full amount of blended and in-form performances they need in order to be an elite team. Durrell Summers, the once-dependable wing jump shooter who hit so many big shots for MSU in its two Final Four runs over the previous two seasons, scored just eight points on 1-of-7 shooting. Draymond Green, the agile forward who carried Sparty for much of this season, posted only five points in 27 minutes of court time. Delvon Roe, a bruiser near the rim who has plucked so many key rebounds in his Michigan State career, totaled a modest eight points and seven rebounds in this game. This was a less than complete showing from the Spartans, yet they were able to eclipse coach Bruce Weber’s Illinois squad. How? With defense.

Michigan State’s offense might still be a gosh-awful mess, but at least Sparty defended with distinction on Saturday night. The home team forced Illinois to shoot just 37 percent from the field while allowing only 10 foul shots. Michigan State finished this game plus-eight in scoring at the foul line, and given the four-point margin of victory, it’s reasonable to point to free throws as a major point of separation between the two teams. Illinois needed this game to feel safe about its bubble chances, but Michigan State experienced just a bit more desperation.

 

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Small wonder, then, that with the score tied at 49-all with 4:36 left, MSU smothered Illinois for the next 4:09, allowing just two points and rolling to a 60-51 advantage with 27 seconds to go. The timely ability to defend its basket enabled the Spartans to breathe easy for once. A lot of work remains to be done, but for one night, MSU’s NCAA fortunes improved and did not decline.

Tom Izzo will take progress any way he can get it. He hasn’t found much reason to be optimistic this season.


 

By Matt Zemek
BigTen-fans.com Correspondent

 

 

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