EAST LANSING, Mich. — Illinois coach John Groce views victories as rewards for his team doing things the right way.
After losing 10 out of 11 games, the Fighting Illini have a little better bounce in their step after back-to-back wins over Minnesota and Nebraska.
“I think its good to be rewarded for doing things the right way, but we’re not satisfied,’’ said Groce, as Illinois prepares for today’s game at Michigan State. “We still have a long way to go. We can certainly get better on the offensive end, but I like the progress the team has made.
“It’s good from a mental perspective to be rewarded for the past two games.’’
Groce believes the Fighting Illini (16-12 overall and 5-10 in the Big Ten) had a complete effort on both ends of the floor in the wins over the Golden Gophers (62-49) and the Cornhuskers (60-49).
“Do I think the last couple of games have been the most complete that we’ve played on both ends, simultaneously? Yes,’’ he said. “Is that a good thing to be doing in February? Yes.
“I think the guys have gotten better and I think our team has gotten better.’’
Just how much better will be determined this afternoon when Illinois faces the 18th-rated Michigan State Spartans at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich.
“They are not only one of the better teams in our conference, but I feel they are one of the better teams in the country,’’ Groce said. “When you play a team like Michigan State, you can’t play just one end of the floor and expect the result that you want.’’
The Spartans (22-6 overall, 11-4 in the Big Ten) are expected to be back at full strength. Junior Branden Dawson, who has missed the last nine games with broken right hand, will be coming off the bench while senior guard Keith Appling, who has missed three of the last six, is a projected starter for Michigan State.