Down 72-64 with under eight minutes to play, it felt like Michigan State basketball was headed toward a heartbreaking home loss to the No. 10 team in the country.
And then the Spartans caught fire. They locked down on the defensive end and figured it out offensively, going on a 24-8 run to finish the game. The run, in large part, was due to AJ Hoggard having his best game of the season and Malik Hall stepping up down the stretch, hitting a couple of huge buckets, including an and-one on Luke Goode.
The Spartans were able to recapture the lead and hold on, 88-80.
What did we learn from this one?
3. The 3-point defense needs to improve
Allowing Illinois to hit 11 threes is unacceptable, especially since the Illini shoot just around 33 percent from the floor, but giving up 30 attempts from deep is insane.
While Illinois finished around their season average from deep, it still was hovering around 50 percent through the first half and until late in the second when the Illini were throwing up prayers and ill-advised shots. The Illini were scoring at will from the perimeter earlier in the game which is why they led by eight late in the game and it was because of over-helping by bigs which led the guards to scramble to cover the open perimeter guys because of it.
The over-helping has to stop, but I know that's part of Tom Izzo's gameplan when the Spartans face star players like Marcus Domask and Terrence Shannon Jr.
The 3-point defense has to be better because teams are taking full advantage of it.
Conversely, Michigan State needs to shoot more threes.