No. 1 Illinois 81, No. 12 Michigan St. 68
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—Dee Brown backpedalled with his right arm held high and wrist cocked after making a 3-pointer.
It was a sight No. 1 Illinois enjoyed often against Michigan State.
Luther Head scored 22 points, Brown had 18 and the Fighting Illini made 13 3-pointers to remain undefeated with an 81-68 victory over the 12th-ranked Spartans on Tuesday night.
“In the warmups, I shot two airballs and the fans started talking trash,” Brown said. “When people start talking trash, it just puts fuel in my tank. I knew I was going to get hot.”
Illinois (22-0, 8-0 Big Ten) was expected to face a tough test against Michigan State (14-4, 5-2) in an arena known to be raucous. But several Illini calmly made 3-pointers and when they were not making shots from beyond the arc, they scored on low-post moves and mid-range jumpers in their finely tuned half-court offense.
“I thought it was louder during warmups than during the game,” said Illinois’ Deron Williams, who missed only one of five 3-pointers and scored 14 points.
Illinois shot 56.9 percent overall and was 13-of-24 beyond the arc.
On the other end of the court, the Illini wouldn’t let Michigan State get much done because they seemed to have their bodies, arms or hands in every passing lane. The Spartans had 13 turnovers and only one was unforced.
Illinois is one of two unbeaten teams in Division I, along with No. 5 Boston College, which beat West Virginia 62-50 on Tuesday.
Alan Anderson scored 14 points for the Spartans, who lost their 12th straight game against a ranked opponent, dating to the regional finals of the 2003 NCAA tournament.
“It’s a killer,” Anderson said. “This really, really hurts.”
Michigan State’s Paul Davis and Shannon Brown each scored 12 points while Maurice Ager and reserve Kelvin Torbert both had 10.
Illinois led by 17 points midway through the second half and was ahead 73-58 with 6:37 to go before the Spartans rallied to avoid an absolute rout.
They pulled within seven twice, but the second time, Brown ended their comeback hopes with a three-point play on a driving layup that left him crumpled up against the basket support with 1:56 left.
“At the end, we had a chance,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “But we just kind of panicked.”
In the opening minutes, the game matched its billing with four ties and four lead changes.
Brown’s layup with 13:59 left—during a 10-0 run—put Illinois ahead for good.
The Illini led by as many as 11 in the first half and were ahead 41-33 at halftime. Five players combined to go 9-of-17 on 3-pointers.
“I was disappointed in the way we guarded, but I was impressed with the way they shot,” Izzo said. “That barrage in the first half was the best I’ve seen in a long, long time.”
After Michigan State pulled within three early in the second half, Illinois quieted the crowd with another 10-0 run, the last eight points coming on Head’s two 3-pointers and dunk.
The Illini are the nation’s top-ranked team for a ninth straight week—the longest stretch for any team since the 1998-99 season—and are a unanimous No. 1, the first since Duke was three seasons ago.
They are 22-0 for the first time and have won 18 straight Big Ten games, breaking a school record from 1914-16.
Illinois is also off to its best start in the Big Ten since winning the first 10 conference games during the 1955-56 season. The last conference team to begin as well was Indiana in 1993, when it started 13-0 in the Big Ten.
The Illini are two games ahead of both Michigan State and Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings, with eight games left in the regular season.
Brown insisted Illinois is not thinking about going into the NCAA tournament undefeated.
“If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t, he said. “We’re not worried about it. Everybody thought we were going to lose this game, just like they thought we were going to lose at Wisconsin last week. I just hope people keep picking against us.”