BIG TEN TOURNEY SHOWDOWN: MSU vs. ILLINI

BIG TEN TOURNEY SHOWDOWN: MSU vs. ILLINI

The month of March has been very good for Tom Izzo, who is 50-19 in the month. But the one blemish on Izzo's March mark this season was a loss to Illinois on March 4th.

EAST LANSING - The month of March has been very good for Tom Izzo, who is 50-19 in the month. But the one blemish on Izzo's March mark this season was a loss to Illinois on March 4th.

Izzo would like nothing better than to return the favor against his good friend Bruce Weber when the stakes are much higher than just a regular season game.

For the second time in a week, Michigan State plays Illinois, but this time it's in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.

The #3-seed Fighting Illini (25-5, 11-5 Big Ten) had a first-round bye while the Spartans (21-10, 8-8 Big Ten) advanced by defeating #11-seed Purdue.

Maurice Ager scored 20 points and the Spartans received a surprising 12 points from Goran Suton to beat the Boilermakers 70-58. MSU also received good news as Matt Trannon made his return to the lineup after suffering a broken jaw on Feb 18.

Illinois beat MSU in their two regular season contests, with Spartan killer Dee Brown having two huge games.

The two met just six days ago in East Lansing with Dee Brown knocking down a parade of three-pointers in the second half to lead the Illini to victory. Brown has scored 54 points in two games against the Spartans this season, including a career-high 34 earlier this season.

The Spartans will likely look for someone to put the clamps on Brown and could turn to little used freshman Maurice Joseph who is known as a defensive stopper.

The third time around could be the charm for the Spartans, who have dropped the last five games against Illinois.

Trannon returned yesterday against the Boilermakers and established an inside presence that Paul Davis could not manage alone.

Goran Suton also stepped up with a huge game scoring a career high 12 points in relief of Paul Davis receiving an elbow just above his right eye.

The Spartans suddenly have numerous options for big-men, with Trannon, Suton and Delco Rowley all stepping up to assist starter Paul Davis.

Redshirt freshman Marquise Gray broke his foot against Wisconsin or he would have been the fifth man inside.

With so many tall defenders, the Spartans need to learn from their mistakes and guard the smaller Illnois shooters from long-range. The Spartans were put away with timely three-pointers from Dee Brown.

Illinois rides their two big seniors, Brown and James Augustine, who are the only two players averaging in double-figures. Brown averages 14.7 and Augustine 13.4 points per game.

The Illini guard the three-point line better than any Big Ten school, holding opponents to 30 percent shooting from long range.

The Spartans need to put the ball on the floor and take it inside to Davis or any one of their big guys inside. Doing so should free up guys from the outside while also drawing fouls.

The Illini will go into the game with confidence, having beaten the Spartans with what they do best, shooting the three.

The Spartans have yet to stop Dee Brown this season or even in previous seasons, which propel the Illini to victory. The key to beating Illinois is to stop Dee Brown, which seems simple, but is difficult to do because Brown creates his own shots and drains tough threes off balance.

The Big Ten Tournament heats up on Friday at 9:10pm EST., as the Spartans try to overcome the team that has had their number the last two years.

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