The Michigan State Spartans lost a shot at first place in the Big Ten on Tuesday night, as the Illinois Fighting Illini grabbed a vital victory in an extremely low-scoring affair, winning 42-41. Both teams were strong defensively, but terrible offense did more to contribute to the game's low score. The final minute, which featured very poor shot selection and missed free throws, were a microcosm of the entire game. It provided a perfect conclusion and told late-arriving, casual viewers everything they needed to know about what they were watching.
Adreian Payne's missed layups and Keith Appling's terrible 1-11 shooting night contributed to Michigan State's abysmal shooting night, but senior leader Draymond Green's foul trouble was the Spartans' biggest problem. Just before the under-12 minute media timeout in the first half, he picked up a second personal foul, then a technical foul, forcing Tom Izzo to sit him for the rest of the half. In the second half, Green turned the ball over three times early before picking up his fourth foul with just over 13 minutes remaining.
Trailing 42-40 with just under a minute remaining, Michigan State took the ball up the floor with a chance to win or tie. With 20 seconds remaining on the shot clock, Appling inexplicably took a contested three-point shot, which missed and was rebounded by Branden Dawson. He missed the front end of the one-and-one, giving the Spartans another chance. Derrick Nix drew a foul, but only made one of two free throws. Illinois' Austin Thornton was fouled and also missed the front end, giving the Spartans a third chance to win the game. Appling missed yet another shot -- a contested layup -- and Illinois dodged a bullet to grab a huge win.
This game was, quite simply, one of the most poorly played games in the conference this season. Michigan State shot an appalling 24 percent from the floor and Illinois wasn't too much better, managing 33 percent shooting. The two teams combined for 11 assists and only two players scored in double figures.
The Illini are now 5-4 in the Big Ten and had lost three straight games coming into this matchup against Michigan State. This is their third victory over a ranked team this seaosn.