Spartans Fall to Top-Ranked Illini
Michigan State struggles to stop 3-point shot as Illinois maintains perfect record.
Feb. 1, 2005
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
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 forced Michigan State to get used to.
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.
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.
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.
Deron Williams had 14 points and five assists for Illinois and James Augustine added 11 points.
Alan Anderson scored 14 points for the Spartans, who lost their 12th straight game against a ranked opponents, dating to the regional finals of the 2003 NCAA tournament.
Illinois led by 17 points midway through the second half and were 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.
In the opening minutes, the game matched its billing with four ties and four lead changes.
Brown's layup with 13:59 left capped a 10-0 run and 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.
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.