Michigan State 80 Illinois 75: This Headline Was Called For Three Fouls

Gregory Shamus

The Illini took a 10-point lead into the locker room at halftime and then the second half started.

Being a fan is strange. Feelings and emotions change so quickly during a game, and the way a game is played has a huge impact on how a fan feels at any point in time. Before tonight's game started if you had been told that the Illini would lose to Michigan State by five points on the road, you'd probably be pretty happy with it.

I mean, considering how we've played lately, a five-point loss to a very good team on the road would be an improvement.

But nobody told you that before the game. Instead you watched the Illini lose by five to Michigan State on the road and the only feeling you have is disappointment. That's because the Illini started the game with an 8-0 lead and took a 37-27 lead into the locker room at halftime.

They allowed you to feel hope before snatching it away, and now you're just bitter.

Well, okay, the Illini didn't snatch the hope away. The more apropos phrase would be they threw it away. That 10-point lead evaporated quickly in the second half as Michigan State started the final frame with a 14-0 run. Sparty made a living at the free throw line for the entire second half. The Spartans attempted 32 free throws in the final 20 minutes. 32!

That's 1.6 free throws per minute!

Now, the easy thing to do would be to blame this loss on the officials. I know I'd like to, but while I felt this crew was a bit too liberal with the whistle in the second half, the Illini didn't do themselves any favors.

This may have been one of Brandon Paul's worst games in a long time. He actually finished the night shooting 50% from the floor and with 13 points, but he also took some very questionable shots, had a couple very bad turnovers that helped Sparty in its second half run and fell asleep on defense numerous times.

Brandon Paul has now been abused by backdoor cutters against Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan State. The Spartans got three easy dunks tonight because of Paul's mental lapses on defense.

But you can't just blame Brandon, either. The truth is when you give up 53 points in a second half and allow your opponent to shoot 60% from the floor -- MSU was 14-for-16 from the floor in the second half and that's not a typo -- there's a lot of blame to go around.

And that's just been the case too damn often.

Other Thoughts

-- I'd like to see this version of Myke Henry for the rest of the season. I don't know what he had for breakfast, but keep feeding that shit to him. Henry finished 11 points on 6 shots and also had a key offensive rebound that set up a Paul three-pointer to get us back into the game.

-- Tyler Griffey's three-point drought continues. Though the streak is still at 20 missed because Tyler didn't even take one tonight. In fact, he only took one shot period.

-- Nnanna Egwu came into tonight's game having reached double-digits in rebounds in two straight. Tonight he had one. If I can be Captain Obvious for a moment, that's not going to work.

-- Hey, at least we finished with more assists than turnovers tonight. It's only the third time we've done that in conference play, and strangely enough, we are 0-3 in those games.

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