East Lansing, MI
To say that Illinois is a bad basketball team is fair. But when they came to the Breslin Center tonight without star guard Kendrick Nunn who has back home with the birth of his child, they just plan stunk. And that is being nice.
The Spartans rolled around them, over them and through them playing 13 players in the first half alone and 15 for the game. While their best player sat on the MSU bench (Denzel Valentine) the Spartans top to bottom played with some of their best effort of the year and looked like a top ten team.
Izzo said of this team, â€œDenzel practiced last night and was pretty good. Thought maybe we would play him but in the walkthrough he was not his bubbly self and I made the Mateen Cleaves decision not to play him. Heâ€™s been cleared medically and I have to get him cleared mentally.â€
Izzo did comment on the actual game saying, â€œAt times we played really well tonight. We are not getting the ball inside and out good enough. Eron (Harris) we have to get him more scoring, but in the first half he may have guarded as well as he has guarded.â€
The Spartans had 26 assists on 33 baskets and shot an amazing 53%. The Spartans won the battle of the boards 46-27 and 12 turnovers compared to the Illiniâ€™s six. Four Spartans scored in double digits led by Bryn Forbes with 17, Eron Harris with 13 and true freshman Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid each had 10.
Matt Costello continued his impressive play. He had nine points and the led the Spartans with 14 rebounds. MSU had 50 of their points in the paint compared to ILL who had only 20. The Spartans also led on fast break points 17-4.
The stat of the game to me was that MSU had 12 turnovers and Illinois had zero points off of them. That spoke to the Spartans hustle on defense. Conversely MSU had 10 points off of those six Illinois turnovers.
John Groce the coach of the Illini said of that stat, â€œThat six may be a misnomer. We had some bad shots that I also call shot turnovers.â€
Groce said of the game in general that, â€œOther than rebounding I thought we really competed. They are third in the country. Their execution in every facet of the game was better than ours and their attention to detail. Mentally we just werenâ€™t really good. Our execution was awful.â€
The Spartans return to action on Sunday at Penn State where they are expected to get star Denzel Valentine back. That game tips off at noon and you can see it on BTN.