Cold Shooting Dooms Illini Against #24 Spartans
Feb. 05, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illini pulled within nine with 3:22 remaining but No. 24 Michigan State scored eight of the game's final nine points to pull away for a 69-53 win at State Farm Center on Wednesday. Ivory Crawford led the way with a game-high 20 points, her sixth 20-point effort of the season, but the Spartans shot 53 percent from the field compared to 30.9 percent by the Illini.
"I was happy the way we played in the second half," Illini head coach Matt Bollant said. "I think it was one of the first times this year that we didn't defend great in the first half and then defended better in the second half. And I'm proud of our three freshmen. They were put in a tough environment to start a game against a ranked team, a team that's hungry that we had beaten before, and we're missing Jacqui Grant, and they're starting for het first time. I thought they played with a lot of fight and a lot of joy. I'm just pleased for those guys and we're trying to do the right thing for the program and I thought we took a good step today."
Freshman guard Taylor Gleason added eight points in a career-high 29 minutes and junior guard Alexis Smith had eight points, four rebounds and two steals in 23 minutes off the bench. Junior guard/forward Nia Oden chipped in seven points and grabbed three rebounds, but the Illini shot only 3-of-17 (17.6 percent) from three-point range while MSU hit 5-of-12 (41.7 percent).
Illinois (9-14 overall, 2-8 in the Big Ten) forced 23 turnovers by MSU (16-7, 8-2), the second-most by the Spartans this season, and converted 18 points off those miscues. But Michigan State out-scored the Illini 32-16 in the paint, led by forward Becca Mills' career-high 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 8-of-8 free throws.
MSU started the game on an 11-2 run but a quick Illini timeout spurred a 7-2 burst that cut the Spartans' lead to 13-9. But Michigan State responded with its own 9-2 burst before Ivory Crawford made two free throws following the under-12 media timeout to cut MSU's lead to 22-13.
The Illini cranked up the defensive intensity from there, limiting the Spartans to 1-of-5 from the field and forcing five turnovers over a span of 6:09. Ivory Crawford pulled the Illini within 24-21 at the 7:10 mark with a driving reverse layup but MSU scored the next two times down the court, pushing its lead back to 28-21.
Michigan State finished the half on a 17-3 run, holding the Illini scoreless for nearly four minutes, to expand its lead to 41-24 at the intermission. Ivory Crawford led Illinois with 10 points and six rebounds in the first half, while Becca Mills paced the Spartans with 14.
MSU pulled out to a 59-36 lead at the 11:00 mark, its biggest lead of the game, but Illinois clamped down defensively once again, reeling off a 14-0 burst the cut the Spartan lead to 59-50 with 5:07 left. The Illini held MSU to 0-for-5 field-goal shooting and forced five turnovers over the run that lasted 5:53 before Becca Mills snapped it with two free throws.
After the teams traded missed shots, the Illini got consecutive offensive rebounds and Crawford finally converted, pulling within 61-52 with 3:22 remaining. But MSU hit two free throws then converted a turnover by Smith into a fast-break layup, pushing the margin back to 13. Illinois couldn't hit a field goal and Ashley McConnell made only 1-of-2 free throws as the Spartans salted away a 16-point win.
The Illini head to Minnesota on Sunday for a 2 p.m. tipoff at Williams Arena.