CHAMPAIGN — The sight of Ayo Dosunmu sprawled on the court in front of the Illinois bench hushed the sellout crowd of 15,544 at State Farm Center that only moments before had been at a fever pitch.
Not just because Dosunmu’s fall and subsequent turnover with three seconds to play in Tuesday night’s game against Michigan State meant a 70-69 victory for the Spartans. The bigger concern was for why the sophomore guard fell.
Illinois had the ball where it wanted. In its closer’s hands after Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman ripped a putback dunk off a Cassius Winston miss to put the Spartans up one point with six seconds to play. Dosunmu drove from the right wing, slipped and went down in a heap in front of the Illinois bench.
Tuesday night’s game concluded with the Illini scoring leader writhing in pain, clutching his left knee and ultimately needing help off the court.
“He slipped, and he’ll go through the proper protocol with our docs,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said about Dosunmu. “We’re very fortunate and blessed here that we’ve got great team physicians and doctors. They’re back with him now with his family, so (the coaches have) had very little contact.”
That Illinois was in position to beat Michigan State only came after a furious second-half comeback. The Illini were sluggish from the opening tip, falling behind by double figures within 9 minutes and trailing by 17 at halftime. Shots didn’t fall — again — and Illinois struggled to get stops at the other end.
Illinois’ comeback started in the second half. Aided by 10 turnovers in the final 20 minutes by Michigan State.
“The breakdowns were the turnovers for touchdows,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “They just ran it at us. They just ran it right down our throats as far as attacking.”
Michigan State freshman guard Rocket Watts led all scorers with 21 points. Tillman added 17 points and 11 rebounds, with his biggest rebound and most important two points coming in the closing seconds.
Dosunmu led Illinois with 17 points and nine rebounds, with Andres Feliz adding 15 points and Kofi Cockburn 11 points and eight rebounds.
“Thank God for Rocket and Xavier,” Izzo said. “Coming back at the end, Xavier was so sick of missing layups that he decided to dunk one. Bizarre ending.”