It was a close one in East Lansing, Saturday afternoon but this time Spartan nation was let down by their team. Michigan State was not able to defend their home court and lost to Illinois, 59-54, with the win the Spartans drop to 15-8 (6-4 in Big Ten).
Despite being without senior guard and leading scorer and rebounder, Rayvonte Rice, the Fighting Illini did not back down against a relatively healthy Michigan State team, staying competitive to the very end and coming away with a win.
Without their best player, Illinois got heavy contributions from three of its players. Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn and Nnanna Eqwu combined for 45 of the team’s 59 points.
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It was not a very pretty game for Michigan State, they shot just 39 percent from the floor and missed 11 of their 18 free-throw attempts. Struggling from the line is something that has been the only consistency the team has had this year. Coming in, Michigan State ranked dead last in the Big Ten in free-throw percentage (63%) and because of their inconsistencies at the line, it was a driving force in yet another loss.
It was a tale of two halves for Denzel Valentine, after going just 2-8 in the first half, he was able to find his shot when the team needed him the most, scoring 14 of his 16 points. Unfortunately for Michigan State, Valentine was the only one to give any real effort.
Aside from Branden Dawon’s 12, no other Spartan scored more than eight points.
It is unclear of what to make of this Spartan team through 23 games. At times they look like a good team and seem to have found their rhythm, then there are other times where they look like a junior varsity team that has no clue as to what is going on.
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Most times it seems as if Valentine is the only one who tries to step up and be a leader but that has not gone very well, looking at the teams play.
While they are only 2.5 games back of Big Ten leader Wisconsin, the way this team has played, those 2.5 games seem like 25 and any chance this team had of winning the Big Ten has pretty much faded away. Being pushed back into the pack with the rest of the Big Ten teams is something they could not afford to happen.
Only conference games remain for the team as they try to close their season out on a positive note. Even though they won’t win the Big Ten, it’s imperative they close out on a good note and try to squeak their way into the tournament. But with their shaky play all season, you have to wonder if making the tournament would be worth it.
The win stops the Spartans modest three game winning streak and also snaps their four game home winning streak. How do you think the Spartans will finish out the regular season? Let us know below.
Michigan State looks to rebound from this loss. On Tuesday the team will travel to Chicago to take on the Wildcats of Northwestern at 7 P.M.