CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois basketball hasn’t lost three straight games this season, Michigan State hasn’t lost four games in a row since 2007. Both of those streaks are on the line as the 22nd-ranked Illini host the unranked Spartans Tuesday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN. It’s the first time since 2003 that Illinois is ranked and MSU is not in a game between the two teams.
The Spartans (16-8, 8-5 B1G) dropped out of the national polls for the first time since 2017 on Monday after two losses last week. The Illini (16-7, 8-4) dropped two spots to No. 22 after losing to Maryland Friday night. Both teams are searching for answers but it’s the Illini who have made the most progress since their previous meeting at Michigan State Jan. 2. The Spartans won by 20 that night in East Lansing, a players only meeting followed for the Illini, who responded by rattling off seven straight wins.
“As long as they’re the right guys, absolutely,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said about the players only meeting. “That’s what this is all about. This is their team. Us as coaches help guide them and mold them but this is their team, these are their friends for life and the memories that they’re going to create so I’m a big fan of those and it was probably needed at that time.”
Michigan State has gone 5-5 since that victory over Illinois. The Illini say they’re expecting the Spartans to stick to their traditional man-to-man defense, despite Iowa and Maryland exposing Illinois’ weakness against the zone.
“They’re one of the best defensive teams in our league,” Illinois junior guard Trent Frazier said. “We’ve just got to, we’ve got to move pieces and keep the ball moving. We got to play inside-out and just play to our strengths in transition.”
“Gotta move em, gotta move em,” Illinois sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu said. “Gotta get em shifted from side to side. Got to make Cassius (Winston) guard. Gotta make their bigs move and just move em.”