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Michigan State swept by Illinois, falls 79-74 at home on poor first-half shooting

Tyson Walker’s late shooting performance was not enough to finish the comeback.

Illinois v Michigan State Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Despite a furious comeback in the final minutes by the No. 19 Michigan State Spartans, the No. 12 Illinois Fighting Illini hung on for the regular season sweep in a 79-74 victory.

It is probably safe to say at this point that MSU’s chances at claiming a share of the Big Ten regular season title are likely gone with the second-straight loss of the week for the team. Also, head coach Tom Izzo will again have to wait at least one more game before he can finally tie Bobby Knight for most wins at the helm of a Big Ten program with 662 victories.

Tyson Walker was the story of the day for Michigan State on offense, coming up huge late in the game. Walker finished the game with a team-high 26 points (with 24 points coming in the second half), just falling short of Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn’s 27 points for the game-high. Walker went a perfect 3-for-3 from three-point range, all coming in the final minutes of the game. He also finished the game with a season high field goal attempts (12), field goals made (10), three-point field goals made (three), minutes (31), and blocks (one). A.J. Hoggard was second in scoring for MSU with 15 points, and led the team in helpers with eight assists.

Joey Hauser added 11 points to round out scorers in double figures. Julius Marble led the team on the glass with 10 boards, falling just shy of a double-double with eight points. Malik Hall appeared to roll his ankle in the first half, and played just 16 minutes, while being held scoreless on 0-for-3 shooting from the field. Marcus Bingham Jr. finished with just three points, all from a single three-pointer he hit, while missing two other attempts from deep and making no shot attempts inside the perimeter.

Both teams got off to a slow start in this one, taking over five minutes of game action before either hit double-digits. From there, the Illini went on a 9-0 run from the 13:07 mark until Hoggard finally staunched the bleeding with a jumper off an opponent turnover with 6:59 remaining in the first half, ending a drought of almost six-and-a-half minutes without any score by the Spartans.

Despite letting Illinois push the lead out to as high as 14 points on a three-pointer by Jacob Grandison with 0:54 to go in the half, the Spartans managed to keep it from getting too out of control despite the shooting troubles. The teams headed into the locker room with MSU trailing 34-22.

Overall, Michigan State finished the first half scoring on just 31.3 percent of possessions, while turning it over on 21.9 percent of them. Illinois managed seven points off seven turnovers, five of which were steals by the Illini defense. MSU went 2-for-8 from three-point range in the half and shot a paltry 31 percent from the field overall in the half. The team even struggled from the charity stripe, shooting just 2-for-5 from the free-throw line. All in all, everything came up ugly for this MSU team in the first half on offense.

The Spartans came out strong to start the second half, though. Michigan State cut the lead to single-digits with a three-pointer by Bingham with 17:04 to go, but then couldn’t do more than trade baskets for much of the second half from there. After letting Illinois build the lead back out to 14 points on second-chance points by Cockburn with 14:15 to go (on what should have been a foul by Cockburn, mind you), the Spartans went on a mini-run to cut the deficit down to eight on a fast-break layup by Walker with 12:40 to go, trailing 47-39.

Once again, Illinois responded, however, and built the lead back to 16 points, this time capped off by a pair of free throws and a three-pointer by Trent Frazier to make it 62-46. The Spartans just couldn’t break through the double-digit lead Illinois held for much of the game until finally Tyson Walker showed off the shooting ability he had at Northeastern.

Walker sparked a run by the Spartans to finally make it a game beginning with a three-pointer at the 5:06 mark. MSU went on a 10-0 run, with eight points from Walker, to cut the Illini’s lead to 67-64 with 3:14 to go.

After a layup by Cockburn stopped the drought for Illinois, Walker responded with yet another three-pointer with 2:28 to again make it a one possession game at 69-67. However, a one possession game would be as good as it got for the Spartans as Illinois responded each time to keep it out of reach.

The Illini managed to ice the game with the final score to kill off any chance at overtime with a three-point dagger by Frazier with 0:23 left to mark the final score at 79-74. Gabe Brown missed the final shot of the game, a three-point attempt with 0:09 to go, and Da’monte Williams grabbed the rebound for Illinois to send the Spartans into the locker room with another loss.

Michigan State returns to the road next for a trip to Iowa City to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes on Tuesday night. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. EST and broadcast on ESPN.