December 13, 1998
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan State coach Tom Izzo wasn't even born the last time the Spartans allowed fewer than 33 points.
"I guess that's great news," Izzo said with a smile after the 14th-ranked Spartans cruised to a 77-33 victory over Illinois-Chicago on Sunday. "One of the things we wanted to improve on was our defense. It's the thing we were known for last year and the last two games we've made the most progress on the defensive end."
The last time the Spartans were that stingy on defense was Feb. 17, 1951, in a 43-32 victory over Michigan.
"I think the game was won on three defensive people - Morris Peterson on (Bryant) Notree, Antonio Smith helping out on Notree and Mateen Cleaves kept their point guard as far away as possible so that he couldn't get their offense going," said Izzo, 43. "Those three guys controlled the defensive end."
Peterson, making his first start of the season, scored a game-high 18 points. Peterson, starting in place of Jason Klein (sprained foot), also tied his career-highs with nine rebounds and five assists as the Spartans (6-3) won by their second-largest margin since moving to the Breslin Center in 1989.
"I hadn't started in two years so I didn't want to force things," Peterson said. "Everything sort of took care of itself. It was fun starting, but when Jason comes back he'll be starting. That's fine with me."
Thomas Kelley and A.J. Granger came off the bench to score 12 and 10 points for Michigan State. Smith pulled down 14 rebounds as the Spartans held a 41-30 edge on the boards.
Illinois-Chicago (3-4) made only nine of 41 field goals attempts and went more than 10 minutes without a field goal in the second half.
Ian Hanavan led UIC with 11 points. Notree, who came into the game averaging 21.2, managed only six points against the tough Michigan State defense, hitting only two of 11 shots from the field.
"Their defense was good but our offense was horrible," Flames coach Jimmy Collins said.
Collins thought that Notree, who is playing his first season at UIC after transferring from Illinois, was as responsible for his poor showing as the Spartans' defense.
"I thought Notree played dumb basketball," Collins said. "They doubled him and he still tried to shoot. He tried to drive into crowds. We tried to run our offense to set picks for him and he refused to use them. I think he was dead set on showing people that he deserved to play in the Big Ten."
Illinois-Chicago, which upset Michigan State 70-58 in Chicago last season, is winless in its last nine games on the Spartans' home court.
Peterson said Michigan State's players remembered last year's game.
"They played us well last year," he said. "We went in their thinking we had an easy victory and they upset us. That game made us realize that any team can beat you if you're not ready."