Illinois’ 7-game winning streak ends as Michigan State dominates the paint in an 81-72 upset

Shannon Ryan, Chicago Tribune
·2 min read

Illinois got Michigan State’s best shot and couldn’t withstand it.

The No. 5 Illini were off the mark for too much of the first half as the Spartans harassed and discombobulated them. Illinois’ seven-game winning streak ended with an 81-72 loss Tuesday in East Lansing, Mich.

The physical game took an ugly turn when Michigan State’s Mady Sissoko was ejected with 4:08 left for a flagrant-2 foul that sent Illinois star Ayo Dosunmu hurtling toward the floor and holding his face in pain.

Earlier in the game, Sissoko hit Illinois center Kofi Cockburn in the head, but referees ruled it was unintentional despite Cockburn’s pleading.

Dosunmu made 1 of 2 free throws after Sissoko’s flagrant foul to cut Illinois’ deficit — which had been as wide as 19 points — to 66-57, but the Illini couldn’t get any closer down the stretch.

Dosunmu scored 17 points but made only 1 of 6 3-pointers. Cockburn had 13 points and six rebounds and was 3 of 11 on free throws. Both players looked frustrated in moments, understandably so.

Trent Frazier led Illinois with 22 points, making 4 of 8 3-pointers as the team’s lone offensive spark.

The Illini (16-6, 12-4) fell behind 36-26 at halftime after a horrendous 24.1% shooting performance.

Michigan State (12-9, 6-9) beat Illinois in the paint on offense and defense — an area the Illini have controlled often this season. The Spartans outscored Illinois down low 38-34 and had a 9-2 shot-blocking advantage. The Illini made only 12 of 30 layups.

The Spartans extended their lead to 56-37 in the second half before Illinois cut it to single digits.

The victory was a boost for the Spartans, who are trying to keep alive the program’s streak of 22 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. They have won four of their last six games.