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Can Spartans upset #1 Illinois?

Can Spartans upset #1 Illinois?

The Spartans must also rebound defensively to keep Illinois from getting second chance baskets and extra trips to the foul line. If the Spartans can avoid turnovers and keep Illinois for getting out into transition, they will have a chance for the home upset. Get more including "Keys to Victory", "Strengths and Weaknesses" and more when you <I>Get Inside!</i>

THE MATCHUP:
#12 Michigan State Spartans versus #1 Illinois Fighting Illini
Date: Tuesday, February 1
East Lansing, MI. – Breslin Center (14,759)
Time: 7 p.m. (ESPN)

SERIES NOTES: Illinois leads the all-time series 49-47 over the Spartans, with Michigan State holding a 30-16 advantage in games played at East Lansing. The Fighting Illini has won three of the last four and four of the last six meetings. The last Illinois win at the Breslin Center came on Feb. 12, 2002 by the score of 63-61. This is the only meeting between the two schools this year during the regular season.

#1 Illinois Fighting Illini (Record: 21-0, 7-0 Big Ten)
Head Coach: Bruce Weber
Overall Record: 150-61/.711 (7th year) Big Ten: 20-3/.870
At Illinois: 47-7/.870 (2nd year)
vs. Michigan State: 1-0
Illini Probable Starters
43 Roger Powell Jr.	F	SR	6-6	235	(13.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
40 James Augustine	F	JR	6-10	230	(10.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.5 bpg)
4 Luther Head		G	SR	6-3	185	(16.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.1 apg)
5 Deron Williams	G	JR	6-3	210	(13.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 7.0 apg)
11 Dee Brown		G	JR	6-0	185	(12.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 5.1 apg)


Illini Bench Notables
G - 33 Rich McBride	G	SO	6-3	215	(3.6 ppg, 1.5 rpg)
F - 34 Fred Nkemdi	F	SR	6-5	235	(0.6 ppg, 0.3 rpg)
F - 41 Warren Carter	F	SO	6-9	210	(3.0 ppg, 1.6 rpg)
C - 45 Nick Smith	C	RS-SR	7-2	250	(4.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
C/F - 50 Jack Ingram	C/F	RS-SR	6-10	245	(4.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg)
F - 55 Shaun Pruitt	F	FR	6-8	245	(1.6 ppg, 1.0 rpg)


ILLINI TEAM STATS
(through 21 games)	          ILLINI		    OPP
SCORING		1711		1318
Points per game		81.5		62.8
Scoring margin		+18.7
FIELD GOALS-ATT	632-1268	482-1145
Field goal pct.		.498		.421
3 POINT FG-ATT		186-463		133-345
3-point FG pct.		.402		.386
3-pt FG made per game	8.9		6.3
FREE THROWS-ATT	261-360		221-347
Free throw pct.		.725		637
REBOUNDS		743		652
Rebounds per game	35.4		31.0
Rebounding margin	+4.3
ASSISTS		420		253
Assists per game		20.0		12.0
TURNOVERS		234		330
Turnovers per game	11.1		15.7
Turnover margin		+4.6
Assist/turnover ratio	1.8		0.8
STEALS			161		99
Steals per game		7.7		4.7
BLOCKS		85		56
Blocks per game		4.0		2.7

SCORE BY PERIODS: 	1st	2nd   OT    Total
Illinois			926	777    8  -  1711
Opponents		633 	682    3  -  1318


ILLINI STRENGTHS: Pretty Much Everything Illinois is one of only two remaining undefeated teams in Div. 1 basketball (Boston College, 18-0) this season and this week garnered their first unanimous #1 selection in the Associated Press Poll in school history. They are the first unanimous selection for the top spot since Duke did it during the 2001-02 season.

Luther Head, Dee Brown and Deron Williams are electrifying as Illinois' starting backcourt trio, averaging a combined 42.3 points-per-game, 16.2 assists-per-game, and 4.4 steals-per-game). They can run you ragged with their guards or they can pound you inside with forwards Roger Powell and James Augustine (a combined 23.2ppg and 12.7 rpg).

ILLINI WEAKNESSES: Little If Any They don't have any that stick out. Although Michigan State does have a slight edge in bench scoring (21.5 ppg v. 16.9 ppg) bench rebounding (14.7 v. 10.2 rpg.) and overall free-throw percentage .801 (273-341) for MSU versus .725 (261-360) for Illinois

#12 MICHIGAN STATE (Record: 14-3, 5-1 Big Ten) Head Coach: Tom Izzo
Overall Record: 220-93/.703 (10th year)
At Michigan State: Same
vs. Illinois: 10-7
Spartan Probable Starters
3 Shannon Brown	G/F	SO	6-4	200	(11.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
5 Chris Hill		G	SR	6-3	190	(9.2 ppg, 4.6 apg)
13 Maurice Ager	G	JR	6-5	195	(14.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
15 Alan Anderson	F	SR	6-6	220	(11.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
40 Paul Davis		C	JR	6-11	255	(12.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg)


Spartan Bench Notables 12 Drew Neitzel G FR 6-0 170 (2.9 ppg, 2.7 apg) 20 Matt Trannon F JR 6-6 217 (2.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg) 23 Kelvin Torbert G SR 6-4 215 (10.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg) 30 Tim Bograkos G RS-SR 6-2 195 (1.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg) 34 Drew Naymick C SO 6-10 235 (1.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg) 50 Delco Rowley F RS-SO 6-8 250 (2.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg)

SPARTAN TEAM STATS (through 16 games) MSU OPP SCORING 1276 982 Points per game 79.8 61.4 Scoring margin +18.4 FIELD GOALS-ATT 444-896 345-822 Field goal pct. .496 .420 3 POINT FG-ATT. 115-300 99-281 3-point FG pct. .383 .352 3-pt FG made per game 7.2 6.2 FREE THROWS-ATT 273-341 193-303 Free throw pct. .801 .637 REBOUNDS 579 455 Rebounds per game 36.2 28.4 Rebounding margin +7.8 ASSISTS 284 189 Assists per game 17.8 11.8 TURNOVERS 228 275 Turnovers per game 14.3 17.2 Turnover margin +2.9 Assist/turnover ratio 1.2 0.7 STEALS 131 107 Steals per game 8.2 6.7 BLOCKS 45 40 Blocks per game 2.8 2.5 SCORE BY PERIODS: 1st 2nd Total Michigan State 626 650 - 1276 Opponents 449 533 - 982

SPARTAN STRENGTHS: Balanced Scoring and Ball Protection

The Spartans continue to spread the ball around offensively, with five players averaging in double figures this season (Ager 14.0, Davis 12.8, Anderson 11.9, Brown 11.3 and Torbert 10.1). As a team, Michigan State is shooting .496 (444-896) from the floor overall and .383 (115-300) from behind the arc. They also are among the Big Ten leaders in free-throw percentage at .801 (273-341).

The Michigan State point guard duo of Chris Hill and Drew Neitzel have done a terrific job of protecting the rock this season, combining for an assist-to-turnover margin +74 (119-45) and a collective 7.4 assists-per-game.

SPARTAN WEAKNESSES: Killer Instinct and Inside Punch behind Paul Davis

Michigan State has often struggled in big games to put away teams when the opportunity presents itself. Much of that can be traced to a lack of aggressiveness and/or confidence amongst the team's elder statesmen. Since the Wisconsin defeat, Junior Maurice Ager and Sophomore Shannon Brown have noticeably stepped up to fill the void, however this team still has yet to win a big game on the road. Until they accomplish that feat, the doubts about their ability to do so will remain.

The Spartans' lack of an inside post presence behind Paul Davis remains a problem, as his primary backups, redshirt sophomore Forward Delco Rowley and sophomore Center Drew Naymick, have combined to average just 4.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and just 1.14 blocks-per-game this season. While the arrival of Spartan-footballer Matt Trannon has helped the cause (4.3 RPG and 2.4 PPG in eight games), Michigan State must find a way over the next five weeks to take some of the pressure off of Center Paul Davis if they hope to play deep into March.

A home win against #1 Illinois would give Michigan State's long-embattled Senior class something to hang their hats on and could propel the entire team for the rest of the season.

KEYS TO VICTORY:

Illinois: Jump out early to silence the home crowd and then clamp down on Paul Davis and Maurice Ager defensively, forcing other Spartans to step up and fill the void. If Illinois can get Davis into early foul trouble, it could be lights out for the Spartans as they have little to no size behind Davis down low to stop Powell and Augustine.

Michigan State: Protect the basketball and slow down Illinois three-guard trio of Brown, Head and Williams. The Spartans must also rebound defensively to keep Illinois from getting second chance baskets and extra trips to the foul line. If the Spartans can avoid turnovers and keep Illinois for getting out into transition, they will have a chance for the home upset.

Prediction: Illinois 74, Michigan State 72

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