The #9 Michigan State Spartans saw their record on the year fall to18-5 (9-3) with a 79-74 road loss to the Fighting Illini. It was the Spartans third straight conference loss, after having won the previous 21 regular season conference contests.
The Spartans were led by Cassius Winston who had 21 points, nine assists, and an astounding nine turnovers. Xavier Tillman had 16 points and eight rebounds while replacing Nick Ward in the starting lineup. Kyle Ahrens replaced Aaron Henry in the starting lineup and had 11 points and seven rebounds. Nick Ward was the only other Spartan in double digits. He had 11 points.
Tom Izzo said, “Listen, I am going to tell you something. Illinois played damn good, but that is inexcusable the way we turned the ball over. I give credit to Indiana and I give credit to Illinois but we deserve blame. When you have 17 turnovers in the first half you don’t even give yourself a chance to get into the game.”
Illini head coach Brad Underwood said after, “Obviously you force a team like Michigan State into 17 (1st half turnovers) you are going to feel good. I am elated and I am so happy for our guys in the locker room. We keep growing and we keep working and those young men are to be commended for that. This proves we can beat the countries best and if you look at their statistical numbers they are right there.”
The Spartans shot 51% from the field including 37% from the three. The Spartans shot a terrific 92% from the free throw line. They went 23 of 25. The Spartans had 15 assists on 22 baskets.
Izzo said continued to bemoan the turnovers saying, “I am going to give a lot of credit to Illinois. The fans were great. Brad (Underwood) has done a very good job, they play hard…but the turnovers that is just ridiculousness on our part.”
The Spartans won the battle of the boards 30-25. Disappointingly, the Spartans had 24 turnovers. That is where they lost the game. The Illini had an amazing 28-six advantage with points off of turnovers.
Izzo played nine players including three of his five freshmen.
The Spartans return to Big Ten action against the Gophers of Minnesota on Sunday at 2:00 PM back at the friendly confines of the Breslin Center. The game is on ESPN2.
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