Michigan State coach Tom Izzo elected to put Kalin Lucas on the bench a couple of minutes into this season’s first matchup with Illinois. This time, Izzo may not have an option.
The injured star guard might have to watch from the sideline as the fifth-ranked Spartans, fresh off their first Big Ten loss, face the Illini on Saturday night.
Lucas is questionable to play after spraining his right ankle in Michigan State’s 67-49 loss to No. 16 Wisconsin on Tuesday night.
“I think the issue is whether he’s a fast healer or not,” Izzo said. “I can’t say I know that because he hasn’t really been hurt. It’s not good, that’s for sure.”
Last season’s Big Ten player of the year, Lucas had seven points in 22 minutes to snap a streak of 33 straight games scoring in double figures. If Lucas can’t play, he will likely be replaced by Korie Lucious at point guard.
Lucas leads the Spartans with 15.6 points and 4.0 assists per game. He had one of his best games of the season in a 73-63 win over Illinois on Jan. 16, bouncing back from a poor start - prompting a benching from Izzo - to finish with 20 points.
The Spartans (19-4, 9-1) prevailed despite going 2 of 12 from 3-point range and committing 17 turnovers.
Another subpar offensive performance led to their 10-game win streak being snapped Tuesday, shooting 37.0 percent from the field and getting held to their lowest point total of the season. They’ve been held under 40 percent shooting in two of their last three road games.
“In practice, we just haven’t been bringing it like we should have, we haven’t had the energy like we should have and coach has been telling us that,” Lucious said.
Michigan State, though, has been sharp following each of its losses, winning the three ensuing games by an average of 23.0 points. The Spartans, who shot 54.8 percent while holding opponents to 39.3 in those contests, have not lost consecutive games since February 2008.
If Lucas sits out, though, Michigan State will have its hands full trying to keep that streak going.
Durrell Summers, averaging 10.8 points, might have to be even more involved offensively. The junior guard is averaging 15.0 points and shooting 56.7 percent over his last three games.
Summers was held to seven points on 3-of-10 shooting in last month’s meeting with the Illini (15-8, 7-3), who trail the conference-leading Spartans by two games and are among four teams tied for second.
Illinois has the Big Ten’s best field goal percentage defense (39.6) and is coming off one of its best performances of the season, holding Iowa to 29.6 percent in a 57-49 win Wednesday night.
It was the third straight victory for Illinois, which lost its previous three.
Like the Spartans, the Illini are led by their point guard. Demetri McCamey is averaging 15.1 points and a Big Ten-best 6.2 assists.
McCamey, though, has committed 3.2 turnovers a contest, second-worst in the conference, and is averaging 4.5 in his last four games versus Michigan State.
McCamey had a season-high 28 points in Illinois’ last game against a ranked team, an 84-78 loss to then-No. 13 Purdue on Jan. 19. Illinois is 2-2 against Top 25 opponents this season.
The Spartans have been ranked in each of their last five meetings with the Illini, winning each contest, and lead the series 54-53.