Monday, January 22, 2018

No. 6 Michigan State 87, Illinois 74: Michigan Bridges stay up with a 31-point outburst

Photo Credit: Mike Granse- USA TODAY Sports

CHAMPAIGN, Ill.— Revenge can be sweet and for the No. 6-ranked Michigan State Spartans (18-3 6-2 Big Ten), they wrote a wrong from last season in an 87-73 win over the Illinois Fighting Illini (10-11, 0-8 Big Ten) at the State Farm Center.

After a 73-70 loss to Illinois in the last meeting on March 1, 2017, Michigan State came out with a purpose and sophomore Miles Bridges put together his most complete game of the season with a game-high 31 points, on 11-of-13 from the field, to go along with eight rebounds.

The majority of Bridges’ 31 points came off precision passes from Cassius Winston and Tum Tum Nairn. Bridges also used the baseline to his advantage with repeated cuts to the rim, which the Illini defenders could not stop.

13 of MSU’s 15 assists came from Winston (game-high eight assists) and Nairn as Michigan State dominated on both sides of the ball.

Illinois’ lack of depth off the bench with its big men got exploited as Michigan State finished with a 35-15 advantage in the rebound department.

22 of Kipper Nichols’ career-high 27 points came in the second half as the Illini pulled as close as eight points with 1:03 left, but dropped to 0-8 in the Big Ten for the first time in school history.

The Illini came out aggressive on defense early as they forced the Spartans into a couple of turnovers, which translated into baskets as the game was knotted at six.

In need of a confidence boost, Izzo turned to the MSU bench as Nairn made an impact in short time on an alley oop pass to Bridges for the thunderous dunk and subsequent foul call to put the Spartans up 9-6 at the 15:47 mark of the first half.

As the turnover woes settled for the Spartans, more would be made as Winston would be substituted for Nairn after committing his second foul 6:55 into the game.

Despite nine turnovers committed, MSU channeled open backdoor looks as Bridges continued to flush dunks with ease as it clung to a 25-24 advantage over Illinois. The Spartans looked more fluid on offense as they would string together a 10-2 run over 3:46.

Michigan State led for the remainder of the first half and took a 39-32 lead despite 15 turnovers committed.

The start of the second half saw a complete Spartan team as the turnovers were a distant memory and they used a combination of size and speed, highlighted by another Bridges alley oop dunk to expand the lead to 48-36, 2:35 into the second half.

The Spartans continued to grasp more control as the Illini’s Leron Black went out the game with his fourth foul at the 16:52 mark. To make matters worse, the Illini missed eight of their first nine shots to start the second half, which helped aid the Spartans.

Black’s foul trouble opened the door for MSU to go full throttle on a 9-2 run to take a 62-44 lead on Illinois and would not look back.

Looking Ahead:

The Illini look for their elusive first win in the Big Ten as the Indiana Hoosiers make the trip to Champaign on Jan. 24, while the Spartans host the Wisconsin Badgers at the Breslin Center on Jan. 26.

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