Sunday, March 01, 2009

March is Here

Michigan State brought all the intensity of March to the Assembly Hall, and put on a performance that deserves at least a share of the Big Ten Championship and earned a 74-66 victory over Illinois. They had 11 steals, 10 offensive rebounds and a very strong performance from guard Kalin Lucas (18 points).

But the Illini showed the fight they have displayed much of the season, relying on strong defense to stay in any game. The Illini were outmatched on the boards, yet Mike Davis and Chester Frazier both had 8 rebounds. Four players scored in double figures, led by Mike Tisdale with 15. And Bruce found a way to get Illinois back into a game where they just couldn't quite pull ahead, relying heavily on Davis in the first half and Tisdale in the second.

Although the Illini shooting touch all but disappeared after Jeff Jordan tied the game on a steal and fast break, they shot 46% for the game, compared to 45% for the Spartans. And they hung in there during an up-tempo game.

But it takes more than home court advantage to recover from 17 turnovers. And, frankly, Michigan State was the more talented, intense team. They executed well. The Illini did well to stay in the game. Although it was a disappointing finale for Chester, Trent and Calvin at Assembly Hall, the Illini played the best team in the conference tough.

And anyone could play in the confernce tourney final in a couple weeks. But first things first -- the Illini head to Penn State this week for their final game of the season. A win won't be easy, but it sure would be nice...


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