College Basketball: Illinois Knocks off Michigan State in Defensive Clinic

James EvensCorrespondent IJanuary 31, 2012

CHAMPAIGN, IL - JANUARY 10: Brandon Paul #3 of the Illinois Fighting Illini smiles after making a three-point basket against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Assembly Hall on January 10, 2012 in Champaign, Illinois. The Illini defeated the Buckeyes 79-74 as Paul scored 43 points. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Illinois got the best of No. 10 Michigan State 41 to 42 tonight in what was a typical Big Ten grinding match-up featuring some great defense. 

To put it in perspective, earlier in the season against Ohio State, Brandon Paul recorded 43 points in an Illini victory, one more than his team scored tonight against the Spartans.

In a game that senior Draymond Green was injured early, Michigan State failed to get started offensively, but was able to stay in the game with superb defense and a bit of struggling on the part of Illinois.

Brandon Paul had 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals for the Illini and was the key to the victory. Paul played all 40 minutes of the game.

What really stood out in this game was Illinois' defense.

They were able to create 15 turnovers and had six blocks on the day, compared to turning the ball over just 12 times. That three turnover margin sealed the deal for Illini in this sloppy match-up.

Combined these teams shot just 27 percent from the field and were under 20 percent from beyond the arc.

This game was huge for the Illini, as they had just dropped out of the rankings and needed to prove themselves to everyone again.

With Michigan State being the second top 10 team to drop inside of Assembly Hall in Champaign, the Illini are establishing themselves as a team not to mess with, especially at home.