Live! vs. No. 4 Michigan State

No. 4 Michigan State 78, Illinois 62 — FINAL

CHAMPAIGN — Gary Harris scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed five rebounds in leading the fourth-ranked Spartans to a win.

The loss is the fourth in a row for the Illini, the first time they’ve suffered four straight setbacks since late in the 2011-12 season.

Tracy Abrams scored 15 points to lead Illinois (13-6, 2-4 Big Ten), which got 12 points apiece from Rayvonte Rice and Jon Ekey.

Keith Appling and Denzel Valentine (11 rebounds) each scored 15 for Michigan State (17-1, 6-0).

No. 4 Michigan State 46, Illinois 38 — 11:57 second half

The Illini just can’t seem to make a sustained run against the Spartans. After a Maverick Morgan jumper and a Jaylon Tate fancy layup, the State Farm Center crowd got as loud as it’s been in a while. Then Denzel Valentine hit a three to beat the shot clock and that quieted things real quick.

There are a lot of coaches sitting behind me.

“You got to know when to show up, Joe!” one of them yelled.

One of the things Eddie Johnson just told me he said to the team yesterday was to tune out the negativity. There’s going to be plenty of it from outside the program during this brutal stretch the Illini find themselves in.

Tom Izzo might lose his mind, he’s been mad at the officiating all night. I guess that’s pretty normal. He’s had more than a few legitimate gripes.

The Izzo Effect came into play just before this most recent timeout. He complained about a few calls, then got a questionable one to go his way. He’s a cagey veteran.

Stephen Bardo called the Northwestern-Indiana game today on the Big Ten Network. Stephen says it took him nearly five hours to get here tonight from Bloomington.

“They don’t have snow plows in Indiana,” he said. Stephen said as soon as he crossed the state line, the roads were much more clear.

No. 4 Michigan State 35, Illinois 25 — HALFTIME

Offensive rebound and second-chance points by the Spartans are killing the Illini.

MSU had seven offensive rebounds and eight second-chance points. The Spartans closed the half on a 9-3 run.

Illinois missed a few layups.

I don’t think Izzo wanted that timeout Michigan State called with 56.2 seconds left. He was yelling something at Appling and the official called it a timeout.

Michigan State has used Denzel Valentine and Gary Harris on Rayvonte Rice. Both are big-bodied guards.

Groce asked his bench after Joseph Bertrand passed on a three-pointer “Why is Joe hesitating?”

Fans sitting behind me are all over Groce to bench Nnanna Egwu after the big man missed a tip in. “Take him out, John!” Another one yelled something I can’t repeat here.

Tough crowd.

That’s at least twice this season that Kendrick Nunn had one of those chase-down blocks. His effort was appreciated by the crowd.

Later on he made a spinning layup in between multiple defenders, finishing with the right (off) hand, that drew a bunch of “Oooohs” from the crowd.

I spy Sam McLaurin sitting in the bleachers near the Illinois bench. Big Sam said on Twitter this week that this Michigan State game is to this year’s Illinois team what last year’s game against Indiana was for his team. He was essentially predicting an Illinois win.

Michigan State ran a play called “Florida.” The Illini knew it, but weren’t able to stop it.

The Illinois turnovers are really bothering John Groce.

Gavin Schilling is built like a body builder. What they feeding him in East Lansing?

Illinois went small for a stretch late with Ekey at the 5, Hill at the 4, Rice at the 3, Nunn at the 2 and Abrams at the point.

Illinois shot 10 for 30 (33.3 percent) from the floor and 4 for 13 (30.8 percent) from three-point range. They were out-rebounded 24-10.

Rayvonte Rice leads the way with eight points. Abrams, Hill and Nunn have five apiece.

Michigan State shot 14 for 28 (50 percent) from the floor and 2 for 6 (33.3 percent) from three-point land.

Gary Harris leads with 10 points. Kenny Kaminski and Denzel Valentine have six apiece.

Illinois 10, No. 4 Michigan State 9 — 11:53 first half

Tom Izzo tried to get at one of the officials entering the under-12 timeout. The injured Adreian Payne stepped in front of his coach.

The Illinets were trying to do their dance during the same timeout, but the folks here kept playing the wrong song. Oops.

Groce nearly broke his hand on the scorer’s table after Malcolm Hill fired up a three-pointer after the first timeout. “I don’t want that!” he screamed. He wanted Malcolm to drive.

Hill’s next possession, he took it to the basket, made it and got fouled.

The Illinois coaches are all over the officials about hands on their ball handlers. They’re not happy with the way the officiating has changed since the beginning of the season.

It worked, Michigan State getting called for a lot of hand checks now.

Denzel Valentine will hear the “Ariball” chant until he makes a shot. He missed everything on his first three-point attempt.

Kendrick Nunn and Maverick Morgan got into the game less than three minutes in.

Tracy Abrams got caught guarding Branden Dawson in the post. MSU didn’t find him, but Dawson ended up getting a put back to beat the shot clock.

As the teams went to the bench for the under-16 timeout, the crowd gave the Illini a standing ovation for forcing a shot-clock violation.

Shannon Ryan from the Chicago Tribune got here a couple minutes in. She says it took her four and a half hours to get here from Chicago. It must be real bad out there.

No. 4 Michigan State (16-1, 5-0) at Illinois (13-5, 2-3) — TIPOFF (BTN)

Jerry Hester, the former Illini who calls games for the Illini Sports Network, showed up about 20 minutes before tipoff. Jerry said he had a heck of a time getting here from his home in the south suburbs of Chicago. I-57 was a little rough with all the snow.

Melvin Nunn, father of Kendrick, told me he didn’t have too much of an issue. He left a little bit before Jerry did.

I already told you about Aaron Jordan being here, D.J. Williams is also here. It’s Williams’ second game of the season. He was here for the Bradley game.

The last game that Jordan attended happened to be the last game Illinois won.

I bumped into athletic director Mike Thomas in the hallway. He’s nervous about tonight’s game. He’s also nervous about the Broncos game tomorrow. Mike’s concerned about the Broncos being so banged up defensively.

I also saw Eddie Johnson down there, too. Again, he still looks like he can play at 54.

For the 19th game in a row, Illinois will start Tracy Abrams, Rayvonte Rice, Joseph Bertrand, Jon Ekey and Nnanna Egwu.

Michigan State counters with Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Denzel Valentine, Branden Dawson and Matt Costello.

Adreian Payne is on the bench wearing a warmup. He will not play.

As the Illini danced on the video board prior to taking the court, Jaylon Tate’s mom waved an Illinois towel. Ahmad Starks broke the huddle down with a dance.

John Groce and Tom Izzo had a short, friendly conversation before the tip.

No. 4 Michigan State (16-1, 5-0) at Illinois (13-5, 2-3) — 7 p.m. BTN

Caught up with Aaron Jordan for a minute. Like his dad, Aaron is relaxed. He said the phone is ringing a lot less and he hears from Illinois fans regularly on Twitter.

I just received a photo from McKennon Biers of the Orange Krush. Biers says Lou Henson had some members of the Krush over at his home today before the game. Biers and Henson were both sporting the orange coat. Here’s a link to it from my Twitter page.

The full Krush won’t be here tonight. School isn’t back in session until this coming week.

Lou Henson was on Saturday SportsTalk with Steve Kelly and Loren Tate today with Eddie Johnson and Lou is still mad that Eddie gets all the credit for making that shot against MSU.

“I drew up the play, no one ever talks about that,” Lou said.

Eddie said he came out of that huddle and told Steve Lanter “Look, you better get me the ball.”

He wasn’t scared to shoot it.

By the way, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is tied with Lou Henson for the fourth-most most Big Ten wins with 214. It’ll be interesting if Lou is in the house when that happens.

I had someone on Twitter ask about the status of Rayvonte Rice and suggest that Illinois sit him out to ensure that he will be healthy the rest of the way.

Rice is fine and he will play tonight. Illinois hasn’t entertained any thoughts of sitting him.

I hear Paul Klee was on the SportsTalk show this morning, too. I haven’t listed to it yet, but I’m sure that was entertaining. For those of you who listened, what did PK have to say?

I’m surprised he took a few minutes out of his weekend filled with stalking Tom Brady to jump on the radio back here in Illinois.

The crowd is arriving slowly, though I anticipate it will be a large one. There were better than 15,000 here against Purdue, but it seemed kind of flat. Perhaps that had something to do with the fact the team didn’t play particularly well.

Michigan is hammering Wisconsin up in Madison midway through the second half. The Wolverines lead by 15. Nik Stauskas and Co. continue to get better in the absence of Mitch McGrady.

No. 4 Michigan State (16-1, 5-0) at Illinois (13-5, 2-3) — 7 p.m. BTN

Good evening from a warmer State Farm Center than it was the other night. Though, there is a bunch of snow falling outside the arena. I wonder what the weather will do to the attendance tonight. We’ll keep an eye on that.

Two hours before the game, Jamall Walker put Aaron Cosby and Ahmad Starks through a more rigorous workout than I’ve seen before. There was some work going on out here tonight.

Tommy Freeman, the former Ohio Bobcat, joined them. That dude can really shoot it.

Just caught up with Jim Jackson of the Big Ten Network. Jim was brushing his hair and brushing off his suit. He’s got to look good for the broadcast tonight.

I asked Jackson about his son, Traevon, the Wisconsin point guard. Jackson says the way the Badgers are running their offense these days suits Traevon’s game because he’s a playmaker by nature. We’ll have more from Jim Jackson later.

Everyone here has been talking about Rob Judson working at Indiana. If you missed it, Judson was hired today at the director of basketball operations for the Hoosiers. The former Illini guard was on the bench today as Indiana fell at home to Northwestern.

Judson played at Illinois from 1977-80, was an assistant coach from 1996-2001 and was the head coach at Northern Illinois and most recently was an assistant at Illinois State.

How about the ‘Cats? They beat Illinois, lose to Michigan State 54-40 and then beat the Hoosiers in Bloomington holding them to fewer than 50 points. Does that make you feel any better about the loss to NU last weekend.

Illinois commit Aaron Jordan is here at State Farm Center for tonight’s game with his dad Rob. Mr. Jordan looks real relaxed. He was kicked back in the bleachers. The phone is ringing a lot less now and Dad loves that.

Aaron Jordan shook hands and shared hugs with a handful of Illinois players as they came onto the court.

Jon Ekey and Austin Colbert were the first Illinois players on the court tonight.

The Illini will wear orange.

The early word is Michigan State will be without Adreian Payne tonight. The senior big man is recovering from a right foot sprain.

That’s great news for Illinois.

Mike LaTulip is back from his concussion for the Illini. He sat out the Northwestern and Purdue games while satisfying the concussion guidelines.

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