After whooping Minnesota by 31 on Saturday for just the second Golden Gopher home loss of the year, Illinois had one of its worst performances all season at Michigan State on Tuesday. The Illini recorded more turnovers than made field goals in the first half and posted their lowest halftime point total all year at 26.
With an eight-game winning streak on the line, Illinois’ first half woes were too much to overcome in the second half, falling 81-72 in East Lansing, Mich.
Now with three games in seven days and just one home game remaining, the Illini really need to finish strong. Road games against ranked Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin still loom on the horizon, and if Illinois wants a shot at the Big Ten title, it needed to win out.
A 6-minute field goal drought put the Illini behind the 8-ball early. The team was 0-12 on layups through the first frame, an unusual stat line for a team with Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. The third-highest scoring duo in the high-major conferences combined to go just 4 for their first 14 from the field while the Spartans shot better than 53%.
Specifically, the transition defense was poor as Michigan State tallied nearly 20 fastbreak points. But, it wasn’t Illinois’ best showing in general. The Illini left 15 points at the line, gave up almost 40 in the paint and had 9 shots blocked.
Illinois trimmed the lead down to 10 and had the opportunity to cut it to a two-possession game after a Flagrant II was assessed to Michigan State, but Dosunmu connected on just one of four free throw attempts. The Spartans’ Joey Hauser followed with a three to extend Michigan State’s lead back to 12, and the Illini wouldn’t cut it closer than 10 points as they fell, 81-72.
26 is the fewest points the #Illini have scored in the first half all year— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) February 24, 2021
TWEET OF THE GAME
this crew can’t even make the right call when it hits them in the leg— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) February 24, 2021
Kofi is the only player that can be hit in the head and also told to walk it off.— Ian Gold (@iansgold) February 24, 2021
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
This video sums up the first half pretty well.
The Illini welcome Nebraska to town on Thursday at 6 p.m. CT for their final home game of the season. You can catch it on BTN.