After yet another loss on the road, the Michigan State men’s basketball team will look to get back on track at home Saturday against No. 10 Illinois.
The last time Michigan State and the University of Illinois met, the Spartans put on one of their better performances of the year but failed to convert trips to the free throw line into points and subsequently lost the game 71-68. Trouble from the line also caused issues for the Spartans on Tuesday night when they fell to Minnesota 59-56. Tuesday night they shot an abysmal 7-for-17 — the worst they’ve shot all season.
The biggest difference between the early January matchup and Saturday’s is the reintegration of Illinois' star fifth-year guard Terrance Shannon Jr. Shannon was suspended from the team on Dec. 28 following his arrest on a felony rape charge for an alleged incident back in September, but rejoined the team for their Jan. 21 matchup against Rutgers after a ruling required Illinois to reinstate him.
Shannon has continued to be an offensive threat since being reinstated, averaging 20.0 points per game — the third most in the Big Ten. Guard Marcus Domask also stepped up in Shannon’s absence, and has continued to generate offense even after his reinstatement.
For the Spartans, the Breslin Center is where they thrive. They have not lost a game at home since Dec. 5, but a top-10 matchup will be their biggest test yet in East Lansing. So far this season the Spartans are 12-2 at home, while the Fighting Illini are an even 3-3 away.
Taking down Illinois could be difficult — especially if graduate student guard Tyson Walker is slowed down due to his groin injury. Walker has been plagued by groin issues for the past few weeks, but in the game against Minnesota he aggravated the injury and had to leave the court for a few minutes. He re-entered that game and seemed to be moving alright, but was limited at practice Thursday. Walker has been the most consistent Spartan all season now having logged double digits in 34 straight games, a program record.
Michigan State is now 14-9 overall and 6-6 in conference play. If Illinois wins on Saturday, the Fighting Illini will take the all-time series lead over the Spartans.
The game between Michigan State and Illinois will tip-off at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10 at the Breslin Center. Streaming will be available on Paramount+.
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