WCIA — It was all smiles as time ticked down and Illinois made it three wins in a row on the season, and against the Spartans from Michigan State, on Friday night.

The Illini held Sparty to 66 points, and none of those came from beyond the arc. It is the first time in 15 seasons Illinois had held an opponent to zero three-pointers. It was a total defensive effort, as MSU shot just 34 percent in the second half.

But a new and improved offensive scheme is what is taking the spotlight. Now back to .500 in Big Ten play, it seems the shift in philosophy has paid off.

“Why would I want to force something that they’re not comfortable with,” head coach Brad Underwood said. “I talk to those guys a lot, and I think one of the things I try to do is find what’s good for everybody. I trust their judgement. I’m sitting in a timeout tonight and I asked [Matthew Mayer], ‘Which play do you want to run? Because I’m running them to you. You tell me.’ I’m really good with that.”

“I just got to give props to Coach Underwood,” Mayer said. “He’s a very aggressive, dominant type of guy, but he’s really humble. His main goal is to win no matter what, and he made some amazing adjustments that have changed our trajectory.”

This is the first time the Illini have won three games in a row against Michigan State since 2006. With a lot of season left, Illinois is right back in the conference mix just two games back of the top spot.

Next up, Illinois heads to Minnesota for a 5 p.m. tipoff with the Gophers on Monday, Jan. 16.