Thank the Lord Almighty, Michigan State won a basketball game. It has been a tough couple of weeks for Spartan fans everywhere. While the basketball team lost three straight games, including one to their archrival Michigan, the football team lost their best coach ever. One would not be judged in thinking that the MSU would lose on the road to a very good Illinois team. But that was not the case. Michigan State finally won!
What is going on?
The last time Michigan State beat Illinois, they were on a six-game winning streak. This time, they had lost three heartbreakers in a row. First, Wisconsin. The Spartans battled back from down 16 at the end of the first half (and took the lead at one point) but lost. Then, Penn State. Cassius Winston made a layup and got fouled. The free throw would have tied the game, but the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year missed it and they lost. Then, Michigan. A bad loss to a rival that was 12th in the conference. The preseason #1 fell out of the AP rankings for the second time this year.
MSU started the game hot, and it looked they would beat the breaks off of the Illini. They took a 17-point lead into halftime and held it for most of the first half despite Winston on the bench with foul trouble. Freshman Rocket Watts picked up a lot of his slack, scoring a career-high 21 points. However, the Illini battled back to take a lead. The two teams traded leads, but it looked like Illinois would win after two free throws from Kofi Cockburn.
The Spartans got the ball back with 17 seconds, and Winston got the go-ahead to take the final shot. He drove, ripped it off the backboard, and for a moment it seemed like a sure thing that MSU would lose their fourth straight. Then Xavier Tillman came out of nowhere for what would be the game-winning put-back dunk.
The Road Ahead
The Spartans have a difficult final six games. They have Maryland, at Nebraska, Iowa, at Maryland, at Penn State, and Ohio State. This will be a good test to see how ready this team is for March. Illinois is a good win, but there is a long road ahead.
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