No. 10 Michigan State (17-5, 6-3) came to Illinois after a week off. The long reprieve certainly didn’t help the Spartans' shooting effort, as they were cold from the field.
The rap duo Outkast said it best:
The Spartans shot 14-58 for a freezing 24.1 percent from the field.
Incredibly, the Spartans grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, but couldn’t make the easy layups afterward. The poor shooting, coupled with Draymond Green’s angry outburst five minutes into the game, left the Spartans without their leader and without hope.
Sophomore guard Keith Appling has played poorly during the last few games. Appling was only able to score four points against Illinois, and missed the game-winning shot from about three feet away.
The bad luck kept piling up, as Green injured his knee late in the contest.
It appeared that Green twisted his knee with about five minutes left in the game, and limped off without putting any pressure on his knee. Green didn’t return, which forced Appling to take the game-winning shot.
It’s clear that the Spartans need a go-to player with time winding down, and I’m not sure if Green and Appling are capable of making the game-winning shot. Appling had his chance against Illinois, and Green had his against Michigan, and Butler in the 2010 Final Four.
The Spartans had a clutch player the last four years in Kalin Lucas. He was always up to throw the dagger in clutch time.
I expect Green to recover and play this Sunday against Michigan, but he needs to redeem himself for his poor performance against Illinois and Michigan.
The game was not all negative. Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne played excellent defense against 7'0" Meyers Leonard, limiting him to only four points. That’s the second time the Spartan duo has shut down a future NBA prospect, shutting down Indiana's Cody Zeller earlier this season.
Also, freshman Branden Dawson continued his hot streak scoring 12 points, and attacked the rim.
The Spartans are clearly the better team than Illinois considering they only shot 24.1 percent from the field, yet still played almost 30 minutes without star Draymond Green, and lost by one point.
That says something. Last year’s team would have lost by 25. These Spartans keep fighting through the worst.