CHAMPAIGN — Sometimes in the grand scheme of things, even when you try and put forth your best effort, the results are still less than satisfactory.
That statement couldn’t be further from the truth, as the Illinois Fighting Illini saw their losing streak reach four games with a 78-62 defeat at the hands of the No. 4 ranked Michigan State Spartans on Saturday evening at the State Farm Center in Champaign.
The Illini played neck and neck with the Spartans for a good portion of the first half, but a late Michigan State run gave them a 35-25 lead into the halftime locker room.
Tracy Abrams led the Illini in scoring with 15 points, while Rayvonte Rice and Jon Ekey each scored 12 for Illinois, who falls to 13-6 overall and drops to 2-4 in Big Ten play with the loss. Ekey was able to come out of a small slump, as the transfer from Illinois State scored in double figures for the first time in the last four games.
“It was good to see the ball go in tonight, and I’m not sure it exactly was a slump I was in,” Ekey said.
Nnanna Egwu, held scoreless for the second consecutive game, continues to slide on both sides of the floor, and may have opened the door for freshman Maverick Morgan to see more playing time as a result of his struggles.
“Mav (Morgan) and Kendrick (Nunn) both had career highs in minutes tonight, and they have earned that playing time,” Illinois coach John Groce said.
Morgan ended up playing 16 minutes, while Nunn charted 29.
“They have been playing really good as of late, and it showed on the court tonight,” Ekey said about the freshmen.
Regarding the veterans, namely Joseph Bertrand and Egwu, Groce stated that “they simply need to play better”. Groce added that “players play players, and right now, the freshmen are doing the job, and therefore, are starting to see more minutes as a result.