#1 Michigan State Clinches Big Ten Title with 81-61 Win Over Illinois

Miles Bridges and the Big Ten Championship trophy.  (PHOTO: Sofiya Stumpos)
Miles Bridges and the Big Ten Championship trophy. (PHOTO: Sofiya Stumpos)

#1 Michigan State Spartans Clinch The Big Ten Title with 81-61 Win Over Illinois

Breslin Center

East Lansing, MI

The #1 Michigan State Spartans came into this senior night with only one goal: win the game. They did just that in dominating fashion 81-61 over Illinois. By the time the game had ended, the Spartans celebrated senior night for LouRawls “Tum Tum” Nairn, Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter and ended the evening raising a Big Ten title banner up to the rafters of the Breslin Center. It was a magical evening.

The Spartans were led by Miles Bridges who had 19 points and five rebounds. Joshua Langford had 16 points and Cassius Winston rounded out the double-digit scorer with 12. The Spartans had 20 assists on 24 baskets and won the battle of the boards 40-28.

Michigan State had a disappointing seven turnovers in the first half but locked it down in the second with only one more. With only a total of eight turnovers for the game that was very impressive. The Spartans shot 85% from the charity stripe and held the Illini to 33% from the field.

Illinois Head Coach Brad Underwood has been beaten soundly by the Spartans twice this year and said of this team, “They’re really good. I think the only thing that is, when they see a Villanova-type, full out, one-end team who has really athletic guards, but Tom’s teams are so good. They dominate you on the glass. They have such depth. Cassius (Winston) was much better tonight than he was the first game against us. When he plays like that, this is a heck of a basketball team. They don’t have many weaknesses. I think they’re really capable of winning the whole thing.”

Underwood added, “They’re good. They’ve got pros. They’re well-coached. They play hard. I didn’t expect anything more or less. Tom (Izzo)’s teams always show up and play. I thought we fought the first half. I thought we were competitive, and I thought we took some, at least we threw some punches back at them. In those first four minutes, we just got off to a horrific start with all the fouls.”

Tom Izzo said of this memory making evening that, “What an incredible night. I told them at halftime you can’t turn it over and we didn’t. I am proud of this team and what they did. With the fact that it was senior night, to win a championship at home is a special moment that I thought we should share with everyone. Happy, but a lot of work to do.”

The Spartans had an astonishing 42 bench points on the night compared to the Illini’s 12. On the night the Spartans had 11 blocks. Five of those came from Jaren Jackson, Jr. (3J) and he now has 100 for the season.

Izzo added of the 100 blocks by 3J that, “Jaren is a special player and tonight was one of those nights. He didn’t score as much or play a ton of minutes because they went small and we went small. Jaren is a special kid and an incredible shot blocker. Jaren still just turned 18 a couple of months ago, but he is a work in progress and the progress is getting better each week.”

With this win, the Spartans improve their best start in program history to 27-3 (14-2). The Spartans have now won 11 in a row. The 27 wins this season is now a regular season record for wins. The previous record was 26.

The #1 Spartans return to action on Sunday afternoon. That game tips off at 1 PM and can be seen on CBS. The Spartans will be taking on Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin. The Spartans have not played against the Badgers this season. If the Spartans can get a win, they will own the Big Ten title outright.

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