Brad Underwood has his program win.
The Illinois Fighting Illini defeated the Michigan State Spartans on Tuesday night at State Farm Center for their fourth conference win and their third win in four games. This is a result that many Illini faithful had been waiting for.
Unlike John Groce’s win against No. 1 Indiana in 2013, this game won’t propel Illinois to an NCAA Tournament, but it carries a similar importance.
Illinois started the game by playing its best half of the entire season. Ayo Dosunmu led the way with 14 first-half points and proved to be the best player on both ends of the floor. The Illini immediately dictated the pace of this game. Cassius Winston and the Spartans struggled with turnovers and gave it away 17 times in the first half. Winston turned it over 7 times in the first half alone, which tied his season-high for any game this season
Illinois had 18 points off turnovers in the first half and made six three-pointers, with Trent Frazier and Dosunmu each pouring in two. The Illini would lead by as many as 13 in the first half and carry a 41-32 lead into the intermission.
Giorgi Bezhanishvili battled Nick Ward in the first half but really got going offensively in the second half. Bezhanishvili had six quick points to start the second frame and gave the Spartans a different look to deal with on that end of the floor.
Both teams reached the bonus with 10 minutes to play. This really slowed down the game and triggered a run by the Spartans. Cassius Winston bounced back from his tough first and began to take command of the game. He ended the game with 21 points and 9 assists and hit a huge three to cut the game to three with eight minutes to play. Kenny Goins would follow his lead and hit back to back threes to take back the lead for the Spartans. Goins finished with 9 points.
But Ayo Dosunmu would have the last laugh. Dosunmu hit back to back threes with two minutes to play that put the Illini up six. And they would never look back.
Ayo Dosunmu announced himself to the college basketball universe and finished with 24 points in the biggest win of the year for the Fighting Illini.
Plain and simple — this is the biggest win of the Brad Underwood era.
TWEET OF THE GAME
If you don’t believe in look good feel good, feel good play good mojo then you’re not watching Illinois tonight— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) February 6, 2019
THEY SAID IT
#Illini Trent Frazier: I believe we're the best backcourt duo in the country.— Erich Fisher (@ETFisher24) February 6, 2019
MOMENTS THAT MATTER
In the first half, Adonis De La Rosa spelled Giorgi Bezhanishvili and had his best stretch of the season. He backed down Nick Ward on offense and got a turn around jumpshot to fall. Then on the other end he drew a charge on Cassius Winston. On the next offensive trip he fed a beautiful pass to Kipper Nichols for a dunk.But he wasn’t done, on the next defensive trip he took a charge from Nick Ward. This stretch gave the Illini the energy t put together a full half.
It was mentioned already, but Dosunmu’s back to back three pointers cannot be understated. Everything had turned against them, and the Spartans were ready to break the Illini. But Dosunmu took over when Illinois needed him most.
Get ready for some #Illinutgers. The Rutgers Scarlet Knights (11-10, 4-7) come to Champaign for a Saturday afternoon contest at the State Farm Center. Rutgers has already won more Big Ten games this season than they have in any of its previous four seasons in the Big Ten.
Tip off is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT on BTN.