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Michigan State Knocks Off No. 9 Illinois, 61-56

March 10, 2006

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Michigan State seniors Paul Davis and Maurice Ager took matters into their own hands against No. 9 Illinois.

Davis and Ager each scored 16 points and Davis added eight rebounds to help the Spartans beat the Illini 61-56 Friday night in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.

Sixth-seeded Michigan State (22-10) had lost three of four entering the tournament, including last Saturday's 75-68 loss to Illinois in its home finale. The Spartans will face No. 20 Iowa, a 67-57 winner over Minnesota, in Saturday's semifinals.

This time, in front of a decidedly partisan Illinois crowd, the Illini (25-6) couldn't duplicate their effort from last Saturday. James Augustine had 16 points and 15 rebounds, but the Illini failed to reach the semis for the first time in the nine-year history of the tournament.

The Spartans overcame a bad start, withstood a late Illinois charge and didn't trail in the final 37 minutes. They held Illini guard Dee Brown to just five points. Brown didn't make a basket until 2:08 mark of the first half.

Illinois continued to struggle after halftime.

Michigan State extended its lead to 41-31 before Illinois rallied with a 12-3 run. That got them within 44-43, but Davis responded with a three-point play, and Michigan State scored seven straight points to rebuild its lead.

The Illini again closed within one when Rich McBride closed out a 7-0 spurt by making two free throws with 2:01 left. But the Spartans answered with a 10-foot runner from Shannon Brown and four straight free throws to seal it. Brown finished with 14 points.

Augustine became the first player in Illini history to top 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds. He now has 1,354 points and 1,012 rebounds. The last Big Ten player to achieve that feat was Indiana's Alan Henderson in 1995.



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