CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo summed up
his team's showdown with Illinois on Thursday night with one short
"This was a Dee Brown night."
Brown scored a career-high 34 points and the sixth-ranked Illini
remained unbeaten with a 60-50 victory over the seventh-ranked to
run their home winning streak to 30 games in the Big Ten opener for
both teams. The streak matches Gonzaga (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today; No. 8 AP) for longest current
run in the country.
Brown was 12-of-22 from the field, including 7-of-13 from
3-point range, for the Illini (15-0) and had 23 points in the first
half. He hit a 30-foot bailout as the shot clock wound down and a
buzzer beater at halftime.
"I think it was one of the most incredible performances I've
seen," Izzo said.
Brown is one of two starters back from the Illinois team that
spent most of the season ranked No. 1 and lost to North Carolina in
the national championship game.
"I just got into a rhythm, got a little confidence," said
Brown, who had been averaging 14.2 points per game. "Guys screened
good for me and I got some open looks. I was just making them
Michigan State (12-3) had its 11-game winning streak snapped as
the Illini held the Spartans nearly 33 points below their average.
Maurice Ager, the Big Ten's leading scorer, finished with nine
points, 13 below his average.
"A lot of times we played right into their hands," said Ager,
who was 3-of-8 from the field. "I feel if I would have played
halfway decent we would have come out with the victory."
Shannon Brown had 17 points for Michigan State, which was held
to its lowest point total since falling 72-50 to Duke on Dec. 3,
2003. The Spartans have lost four straight to Illinois.
"I did not feel that we were in sync," Izzo said. "I think
you have to give Illinois some credit for that but I also think you
have to give us some blame."
Brown's hot hand helped the Illini overcome a poor night by
their big men. James Augustine, Shaun Pruitt and Marcus Arnold
combined for a woeful 4-for-12 from the field, missing several easy
layups and tips, and Augustine committed seven turnovers.
But as well as the Illini were playing defensively, coach Bruce
Weber was content to look for Brown.
"We went to him. We drew up things in the huddle, anything we
could think of. We wanted to get him the ball," Weber said.
The Spartans never could get their fast break going. Brian
Randle corralled Ager and Dee Brown and Rich McBride consistently
beat Shannon Brown down the floor on defense.
Paul Davis added 12 points for the Spartans but spent 10 minutes
on the bench with foul trouble in the first half.
Illinois students were still off for their holiday break, but
the Assembly Hall was full and it was loud. A sizable contingent of
the Orange Krush student section came back for the game and started
chanting when the teams began their pregame warmups.
Once the game began it was a typical Big Ten battle with both
coaches screaming at the officials. Weber drew a technical foul
with 2:29 left in the first half after his complaint to J.D.
Collins was heard by most in the building during a free throw
attempt by Augustine.
Earlier, Izzo had a heated exchange with Steve Wellmer during a
timeout. Wellmer walked away.
Illinois went up 8-2 on Brown's 3-pointer 3:03 into the game.
But the Illini offense struggled and Davis led the Spartans back
with two free throws, a fast break layup and a dunk that gave
Michigan State a 13-10 lead with 13:19 left. It was their only lead
of the night.
The Illini then ran off nine straight points, but Michigan State
closed to 20-19 on Goran Suton's layup before Illinois put together
another 11-2 run to take a 31-21 lead with 2:57 to go. The Illini
took a 35-28 lead when Brown's long 3 fell in at the buzzer.
"Dee was hitting everything," Augustine said. "We had
confidence in him and he took care of the business."