Michigan State’s basketball team traveled back to Illinois this weekend for another road match. This time against the Illinois Illini in Champaign. The Spartans came into the State Farm Center with a few things on the check list for the night. The best team start program history, the sole lead in the Big Ten Conference standings, and head coach Tom Izzo moving up the ladder for most coaching wins in the Big Ten.
After a frustrating and physical game, Michigan State checked off all three with a 78-62 victory.
"We're getting there," said Izzo. "We're getting things out. We're better defensively than we were a month ago, we're better rebounding than we were a month ago."
This was the first time the Michigan State men’s basketball team was able to win 17 of their first 18 matches in a season. The Spartans have also won 10 straight games and improve to a 17-1, 6-0 record and solely own the top spot in the Big Ten.
Izzo now sits fourth in Big Ten coaches with the most wins with 215, surpassing Illinois’ Lou Henson, who was in attendance.
While most of the first half was back-and-forth in the scoring, Michigan State pulled away at half time with a 10 point lead. Also they out-rebounded the Illini 24-10 in that first half. Illinois was never able to cut that deficit.
Sophomore Gary Harris led the game in scoring with 23 points. In addition he notched four assists and five rebounds.
Senior guard Keith Appling and sophomore Denzel Valentine each contributed 15 points and four assists in the match. While Appling grabbed his five boards in the game, Valentine led both teams with a game-high 11 boards.
Adreian Payne, the star senior forward, sat out his third straight game with injury, but still contributed from the bench and in huddle.
Michigan State now looks to their two-game home stretch. On Tuesday they host the Indiana Hoosiers at the Breslin Center. In their last meet in Bloomington, the Spartans pulled away with a 73-56 victory. The game will start at 7:00 pm Eastern Time and will air live on ESPN.
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