With Kendrick Nunn back in Champaign awaiting the delivery of his first child, Illinois fell hard in East Lansing to the Spartans, 79-64. Maverick Morgan (yes, Maverick Morgan) led the Illini with 15 points, but Michigan State dominated nearly every phase of the game, leading the entire contest. Illinois now falls to 8-8 (0-3 B1G) on the season.
To be honest, this game was simply ugly, and for good reason. Illinois was playing with just eight scholarship players: Nunn gone to Champaign, Leron Black out with knee problems, Mike Thorne for the season and Tracy Abrams gone for the season as well. This left a starting lineup of Tate, Coleman-Lands, Hill, Finke and Morgan, which combined for just 38 points.
The Spartans were hot from the field all night, and shot 53.2% on the game. Bryn Forbes led the team with 17 points, including 3-6 from beyond the three point arc. Down low, Matt Costello single-handedly outmanned the Illini frontcourt, grabbing 14 rebounds to Finke and Morgan's combined 10.
One of the few positive takeaways was the play of Khalid Lewis. The senior returned in his first game back since going down with mumps and scored 8 points off the bench, playing some of his best minutes of the season. In the first half, he had a sweet spinning layup that dropped, one of two in the game.
The play of Morgan was surprising as well. Normally a below-average scorer, Mav posted a career-high 15 points while going 11-14 from the line. This opens up an interesting window for John Groce and the Illini. If Morgan is able to continue getting fouled in the paint, he could provide some productive minutes on the court. However this may be more in part due to a failure on MSU's behalf to let Morgan take uncontested shots. He was, in fact, just 2-9 from the field on the game.
Illinois finds itself in a rough place at the moment. Now .500, they are winless in Big Ten play. This going doesn't get any easier as they face Purdue on Sunday in what should be a very difficult game. Nebraska, the game that follows, might offer this team the opportunity to get their first win of the conference season. However for the immediate future, things are not looking good for Illini basketball.