Michigan State basketball hit the road for one of the most important games of the season, taking on No. 22 Illinois. What’d we learn from this battle?
The game looked to be in the bag with Michigan State up 17 at halftime and then extending that lead in the second half to 20, but Illinois stormed back on their home court to make things interesting, even holding a lead with 19 seconds left, but a Xavier Tillman put-back iced it.
Michigan State came away with a huge 70-69 win at Illinois to improve to 17-8.
Not only did this win snap a three-game losing streak, but it sets the Spartans up for another potential Quad 1 win against Maryland on Saturday night with College GameDay in town.
This win also proved the Spartans can win on the road without their star playing well.
Even though Cassius Winston had one of his worst games of the year (12 points, four fouls and four turnovers), the Spartans weathered the storm and picked up a big road win against a ranked opponent.
What’d we learn from this Big Ten battle in Champaign?
3. Lack of bench production is concerning
You would think by this point in the season, Michigan State would have a regular rotation of bench players, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case and guys like Foster Loyer, Kyle Ahrens and Gabe Brown struggled mightily coming off the bench.
With Rocket Watts inserted into the starting lineup, production was expected to dip, but it’s borderline unacceptable to have this talented of a bench produce just seven points.
Julius Marble played well in very limited action, but scored just one point. Malik Hall was held scoreless and Loyer couldn’t sniff a bucket and had two bad turnovers. Brown is in a major funk, shooting just 1-for-4 from the floor and the Spartans need to get him going because he can be an X-factor. Ahrens missed both of his open shots and had three fouls and a turnover. Thomas Kithier was a bright spot, scoring four big points in the second half.
Overall, the bench production was underwhelming and disappointing.