UI grade vs. Michigan State: C-
Player of the game: Michigan State’s Gary Harris
Going into Saturday, the Spartans guard had been struggling with his shot. Bad news for the Illini: Harris is cured. At least for one game. He hit 7 of 9 shots from the field and finished with a game-high 23 points. Just to make sure, he added five rebounds and four assists.
Illinois C, Michigan State A
Harris wasn’t the only guard with a big night. Denzel Valentine and Keith Appling each scored 15 points. The Illini starters missed a combined 21 of 31 shots from the floor. Eddie Johnson needs to give these guys some shooting lessons.
Illinois C-, Michigan State B+
Welcome back to Jon Ekey’s touch. But can you do something about your buddy, Nnanna Egwu? The Illini have a center problem. The Spartans were just fine without Adreian Payne thanks to Matt Costello, who had six blocked shots, eight points and five rebounds. Clutch.
Illinois B, Michigan State C
Payne’s injury shortens the Spartans bench, which will be better when the star returns. Malcolm Hill is showing the game the Illini coaches thought they were getting. The rest of the Big Ten is going to start paying attention.
Illinois C-, Michigan State A
John Groce needs to control his temper. But that’s going to be hard when his guys can’t hit shots or grab rebounds. Probably shouldn’t mention that the Illini have to return the game to East Lansing on March 1.