Men's Basketball
Fighting Illini Victorious In Big Ten Opener

Dee Brown shoots as Michigan State defenders try to stop him in first half in Assembly Hall Thursday night.
Dee Brown shoots as Michigan State defenders try to stop him in first half in Assembly Hall Thursday night.

Jan. 5, 2006

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Michigan State coach Tom Izzo summed up his team's showdown with Illinois on Thursday night with one short statement.

"This was a Dee Brown night."

Brown scored a career-high 34 points and the sixth-ranked Illini remained unbeaten with a 60-50 victory over the seventh-ranked to run their home winning streak to 30 games in the Big Ten opener for both teams. The streak matches No. 8 Gonzaga for longest current run in the country.

Brown was 12-of-22 from the field, including 7-of-13 from 3-point range, for the Illini (15-0) and had 23 points in the first half. He hit a 30-foot bailout as the shot clock wound down and a buzzer beater at halftime.

"I think it was one of the most incredible performances I've seen," Izzo said.

Brown is one of two starters back from the Illinois team that spent most of the season ranked No. 1 and lost to North Carolina in the national championship game.

"I just got into a rhythm, got a little confidence," said Brown, who had been averaging 14.2 points per game. "Guys screened good for me and I got some open looks. I was just making them today."

Michigan State (12-3) had its 11-game winning streak snapped as the Illini held the Spartans nearly 33 points below their average. Maurice Ager, the Big Ten's leading scorer, finished with nine points, 13 below his average.

"A lot of times we played right into their hands," said Ager, who was 3-of-8 from the field. "I feel if I would have played halfway decent we would have come out with the victory."

Shannon Brown had 17 points for Michigan State, which was held to its lowest point total since falling 72-50 to Duke on Dec. 3, 2003. The Spartans have lost four straight to Illinois.

"I did not feel that we were in sync," Izzo said. "I think you have to give Illinois some credit for that but I also think you have to give us some blame."

Brown's hot hand helped the Illini overcome a poor night by their big men. James Augustine, Shaun Pruitt and Marcus Arnold combined for a woeful 4-for-12 from the field, missing several easy layups and tips, and Augustine committed seven turnovers.

But as well as the Illini were playing defensively, coach Bruce Weber was content to look for Brown.

"We went to him. We drew up things in the huddle, anything we could think of. We wanted to get him the ball," Weber said.

The Spartans never could get their fast break going. Brian Randle corralled Ager and Dee Brown and Rich McBride consistently beat Shannon Brown down the floor on defense.

Paul Davis added 12 points for the Spartans but spent 10 minutes on the bench with foul trouble in the first half.

Illinois students were still off for their holiday break, but the Assembly Hall was full and it was loud. A sizable contingent of the Orange Krush student section came back for the game and started chanting when the teams began their pregame warmups.

Once the game began it was a typical Big Ten battle with both coaches screaming at the officials. Weber drew a technical foul with 2:29 left in the first half after his complaint to J.D. Collins was heard by most in the building during a free throw attempt by Augustine.

Earlier, Izzo had a heated exchange with Steve Wellmer during a timeout. Wellmer walked away.

Illinois went up 8-2 on Brown's 3-pointer 3:03 into the game. But the Illini offense struggled and Davis led the Spartans back with two free throws, a fast break layup and a dunk that gave Michigan State a 13-10 lead with 13:19 left. It was their only lead of the night.

The Illini then ran off nine straight points, but Michigan State closed to 20-19 on Goran Suton's layup before Illinois put together another 11-2 run to take a 31-21 lead with 2:57 to go. The Illini took a 35-28 lead when Brown's long 3 fell in at the buzzer.

"Dee was hitting everything," Augustine said. "We had confidence in him and he took care of the business."