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Feb 9, 2024 7:34 am

No. 10 Illinois aims to stay hot in clash with Michigan State

Illinois Fighting Illini

No. 10 Illinois will go for its fourth win in a row when it visits Michigan State in a Big Ten Conference matchup Saturday afternoon in East Lansing, Mich.

The Fighting Illini (17-5, 8-3) are coming off an 87-84 overtime victory on their home court against Nebraska on Sunday. That followed wins over Ohio State on the road and Indiana at home.

“Typical day in the Big Ten,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said after the victory over the Cornhuskers. “It’s the best league in the country. Great players. Great coaches.”

Now comes a tough challenge on the road against Michigan State (14-9, 6-6). The Spartans are coming off a 59-56 loss at Minnesota on Tuesday but are 12-2 on their home court.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo wants to see a better performance from his team after the setback against the Golden Gophers. In the aftermath of the loss, Izzo fumed at his players’ mistakes on the court.

“I have no idea right now, none,” Izzo said, when asked what ideas he had to bounce back. “I’m not worried about Illinois. I’m not worried about (this weekend). I’m worried about watching the film and figuring out what the (heck) happened.

“And you’re right, I am about as upset as I’ve been in maybe a couple of years. … You’ve just got to make plays, and sometimes plays are made by the guys who get other guys the ball.”

Tyson Walker leads the Spartans with an average of 19.0 points per game. He is shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from beyond the arc.

Three other players are averaging double digits in points for Michigan State: Malik Hall (11.3), A.J. Hoggard (11.2) and Jaden Akins (11.0).

Terrence Shannon Jr. leads Illinois with an average of 20.0 points per game. He is shooting 46.8 percent from the floor and 35.3 percent from 3-point range.

Marcus Domask (15.7), Coleman Hawkins (12.0) and Quincy Guerrier (11.0) also are averaging in double figures in scoring for the Fighting Illini.

Hawkins will look to stay hot after scoring a team-high 20 points against Nebraska. He also had seven rebounds, five assists and a pair of steals.

The Fighting Illini reside in second place in the Big Ten. They sit a half-game above Wisconsin and 1 1/2 games behind Purdue in the standings.

“This is a big win,” Hawkins said. “We’re in control of our destiny.”

This will be the second and final meeting of the regular season between Illinois and Michigan State. The Fighting Illini beat the visiting Spartans 71-68 on Jan. 11 in Champaign, Ill.

Hawkins, Domask and Ty Rodgers scored 15 points apiece, and Guerrier and Justin Harmon each added 10 for Illinois in that encounter.

Walker scored 17 points on 8-for-17 shooting to lead the Spartans in that contest. Hoggard scored 16 points and Hall 14.

–Field Level Media

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