From the opening tip, it was clear as to why Illinois was the unanimous choice as the #1 team in the land this week.
By the final buzzer, they left little doubt that they will remain there as long as they wish.
Luther Head scored 22 points, Dee Brown had 18 and Deron Williams added 14 points and five assists as the #1 ranked Fighting Illini’s record remains unblemished with an 81-68 victory over the 12th-ranked Spartans on Tuesday night in East Lansing.
Illinois (22-0, 8-0 Big Ten) was expected to face a tough test against Michigan State (14-4, 5-2) on the road in the Breslin Center. Illinois answered the call by sinking 13-of-24 (.541) shots from 3-point range and when they were not raining baskets from downtown they attacked Michigan State’s interior and transition defense, scoring 28 points in the paint and 13 fast break points.
Alan Anderson scored 14 points, Paul Davis and Shannon Brown each scored 12 points, and Maurice Ager and reserve Kelvin Torbert both added 10 for Michigan State. The Spartans have now lost their 12th straight game against a ranked opponent, dating to the regional finals of the 2003 NCAA tournament.
During the first six minutes of action, the game was up for grabs with four ties and four lead changes. However, Dee Brown's layup with 13:59 left capped a 10-0 run and put Illinois ahead to stay.
Illinois held a 41-33 advantage at halftime. After Michigan State pulled within three early in the second half, Illinois put them away for good with another 10-0 run. The Illini flurry was accented by two triples and a dunk by Luther Head.
Illinois handed MSU its first home loss of the season, as Michigan State entered the game 10-0 in the Breslin Center. The Spartans' last loss at home was a 68-64 overtime defeat against Wisconsin on March 2nd of last year.
On this night, Michigan State’s defense could do little to stop Illinois – allowing the visitors to shoot 56.9 percent from the field for the game. Illinois made 12-consecutive field-goal attempts, from the 18:02 mark to the 6:37 mark of the second half, helping them to an incredible .682 second-half FG percentage.
Illinois is the nation's top-ranked team for a ninth straight week. That streak is the longest stretch for any team since the 1998-99 season. By garnering this week’s unanimous vote, the Illini became the first unanimous #1 since Duke back in the 2001-02 campaign.
The Illini are two games ahead of both Michigan State and Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings, with eight games left in the regular season.
The Spartans will try to get back in the win column this Saturday in Iowa City when they take on the Hawkeyes in a 2:30 tip-off.