Michigan State had all of its weapons in uniform for the first time in almost two months Saturday, but it appears the Spartans are going to need some time to gel and get back to playing the kind of basketball that propelled them to the top of the Big Ten earlier this season.
Coach Tom Izzo's team made only 39 percent of its shots and turned the ball over 16 times in a head-scratching 53-46 loss to an Illinois team that is in ninth place in the conference even after winning three straight.
The Spartans are slumping at the wrong time in the season even as they are recovering from a rash of injuries. They lost consecutive games for the first time this season and have now lost six of the past 10 after starting the season 18-1 and being ranked No. 3.
Gary Harris accounted for 19 of the Spartans points, including five 3-pointers, but none of his teammates scored in double figures. Center Adreian Payne and guard Branden Dawson have missed time with injuries this season and they combined to score 10. Payne appeared to injure his left wrist at one point in the second half but returned to play.
Dawson also grabbed seven rebounds in his return after missing five weeks. His performance is probably encouraging to Izzo and Michigan State fans eager to see the team come together down the stretch run this season.
There is no reason for panic in East Lansing. Izzo is master at getting the most from his players and there is no reason to believe he won't do it again as he gets more practice time with a full roster.
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