CHAMPAIGN — They don’t call it the House of ‘Paign for nothing.
The Michigan State Spartans blew a 20-point second half lead but hung on to defeat the Fighting Illini 70-69 on Tuesday night at the State Farm Center in Champaign.
The Spartans wasted no time opening their lead, as they rushed out to a quick 8-0 lead before the Illini scored on a three-pointer by Tevian Jones. The Spartans kept the momentum going throughout the remainder of the first half and took a comfortable 37-20 lead into the halftime locker room.
Poor shot selection, costly turnovers and a lackluster effort doomed the Illini on the night as Michigan State (17-8, 9-5) capitalized on the Illinois miscues.
Coming into the game, the Spartans had lost three Big Ten games in a row and dropped out of the top 25 for the first time in three years. From the start, it appeared that Michigan State had more energy and more desire to snap their losing skid.
At the start of the second half, the Illini began to show some signs of life, getting as close as 7 points and igniting the sold-out Illinois crowd.
Ayo Dosunmu led Illinois in scoring with 17 points, while Andres Feliz scored 15 off the bench.
With the loss, the Illini fall to 16-8 overall and 8-5 in the Big Ten.
Leading the way for Michigan State was Rocket Watts, who scored a game-high 21 points. Xavier Tillman added 17 points, while Aaron Henry scored 13 for the Spartans, who lost the battle on the boards by a 38-33 margin.
Illinois will head out on the road for a pair of games beginning with a contest at Rutgers on Saturday. The game against the Scarlet Knights is set for a 3:30 pm tip and will be televised on the Big Ten Network. The game will also be broadcast locally on WDAN-AM 1490 and WDNL-FM 102.1, as well as statewide on the 50-station Fighting Illini Sports Network.