Illinois lost to Michigan State last night to remain winless in the Big Ten, and extend its losing streak to six games. Michigan State is flat out a better team than Illinois. The Spartans are favored by some to make another run to a Final Four, and they have two likely lottery picks in the NBA draft on the roster.
Illinois simply couldn’t hang with the superior athleticism and size of Michigan State for 40 minutes. There were some positives from the performance, but the talent disparity also shows how much further Illinois needs to go to return the program back to its best self.
Here are some top takeaways.
2. Michigan State with its most turnovers since 2005
Illinois’ defensive pressure was effective against Michigan State during some stretches in the game. The Illini forced the Spartans into 25 turnovers, the most from Tom Izzo’s squad since 2005.
Unfortunately for the Illini defense, if they weren’t forcing Michigan State into a turnover, they were more than likely giving up points. Michigan State shot 30-for-44 in the game, including a 78.9 percent shooting performance in the first half. The Illinois defense had many breakdowns and gave up dunk after dunk, and easy basket after easy basket.
The ability to force turnovers helped keep the Illini in a game they had no right being competitive in.
3. Kipper Nichols set another new career-high in points
Kipper Nichols shattered his previous career high in scoring and put up 20 or more points for the first time in his Illinois career with 27. He made five three-point shots on eight attempts. He led all second-half scorers with 22 points.
But what will the next game bring?
We’ve seen flashes of Nichols’ scoring ability this season, but often they are followed up with less than spectacular showings. Now this was the by far his best performance of his career, but we will have to see if this is just another flash in the pan or if this can serve as a turning point and springboard for Nichols’ confidence and consistency.
4. Miles Bridges is incredible
Miles Bridges played an amazing game for the Spartans. The future lottery pick put up 31 points and 8 rebounds on 12-of-14 shooting. He was a prefect 9-of-9 on two-point shots.
I counted nine Miles Bridges dunks in the game. He scored 18 points on just dunks. It’s often an exaggeration to say someone is unstoppable, but in this case it was true. Illinois had no answers for Bridges, and he was able to dominate the game and score at will.
Wait, Illinois still needs to play Michigan State at their place? Have mercy.