Michigan State vs. Illinois: Live Score, Highlights and Reaction

Thad Novak@@ThadNovakCorrespondent IJanuary 18, 2014

Michigan State's forward Matt Costello (10) knocks a shot away from Illinois' Tracy Abrams (13) during an NCAA college basketball game in Champaign, Ill., on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Robin Scholz)
ROBIN SCHOLZ

No. 4 Michigan State lived up to its billing, running away from Illinois late to finish off a 78-62 rout. The game was rarely closer than eight points after the Spartans built up a big lead late in the first half behind the sensational shooting of Gary Harris, who led all scorers with 23 points.

Harris got plenty of help from a huge game from Denzel Valentine (15 points, 11 rebounds, four assists). Keith Appling, meanwhile, bounced back from a quiet first half to score another 15, adding five boards and four assists.

For the homestanding Illini, Tracy Abrams led the way with 15 points of his own. Rayvonte Rice and (behind a second-half surge) Jon Ekey added a dozen apiece, but no one could stave off the Spartans' rebounders, who won the battle on the glass by a convincing 38-26 margin.

The win keeps Michigan State unbeaten in conference play, half a game up on arch-rival Michigan. For the Illini, it's their fourth loss in a row, dropping them into a tie for 10th place with Northwestern (one of the teams responsible for that four-game skid).

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