Tum Tum Nairn’s runner attempt at the buzzer clanged off the backboard, and away with it bounced Michigan State’s chance to force overtime Wednesday night, falling 73-70 to host Illinois in Champaign.
The Fighting Illini (18-12, 8-9 Big Ten) won for the fifth time in their last six games as they continue to make a late push for the NCAA Tournament. Michigan State (18-12, 10-7), on the other hand, has now lost six of its last seven games away from home.
Freshman star Miles Bridges led the way with 21 points and 10 rebounds for Michigan State, while senior guard Alvin Ellis III added 15 points and freshman forward Nick Ward posted 11.
Why it happened
Michigan State didn’t even seem to care the slightest bit about taking care of the ball. The Spartans turned the ball over 15 times, many of them unforced, and the Illini only coughed it up 7 times.
What it means
Michigan State has fallen to fifth place in the conference, right behind a surging Minnesota squad, putting the Spartans barely out of position for the Big Ten Tournament double-bye that goes to the top four teams.
Bridges. All night long, he used his supreme athleticism to make breathtakingly athletic plays. He pinned shots against the backboard on defense and spun like a top to the rim on offense. Without his playmaking, this game would’ve gotten even uglier.
Just about everyone else. Before Ellis III heated up in the second half (in which he scored 13 points), Michigan State didn’t get nearly enough out of its wings. And though Ward looked good at times, he often struggled to handle the Illini double-teams.
Who is next
Michigan State wraps up the regular season with a trip to Maryland on Saturday. The game tips off at 2 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
Illinois sure is finishing this season with a flourish. Box score from the 73-70 Michigan State loss: pic.twitter.com/QEBMTQeDz0
— Luke Srodulski (@lsrodulski) March 2, 2017