CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Yes, Brad Underwood projected a surprisingly good mood Tuesday night following the 81-72 loss at Michigan State.
However, with a smile on his face, calm joy in his voice and while in “a good place” mentally following the miserable game Illinois played in the Breslin Center, Underwood repeated a phrase in his post-game media conference to describe Michigan State’s style of play in which they committed 24 personal, had two bigs foul out and had a player get ejected following a Flagrant 2 foul call.
“They muck the game up, give them a lot of credit,” Underwood said. “There’s a reason they foul as much as any team in the country.”
Essentially, the Illini fourth-year head coach is essentially either paying the biggest compliment or subtly using coded language to have contempt for the game plan used by Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo in a game most obviously needed much more for the host Spartans than the No. 5 ranked Illini. Or Underwood did both.
“They mucked the game up and made it ugly,” Underwood said. “Their kids played really hard. As bad as we played, as many free throws as we missed, as many layups as we smoked, our two heroes didn’t play very well in Ayo and Kofi and yet, we’ve got a chance after a flagrant foul to cut (the lead) to six.”
Underwood acknowledged he, his coaching staff and players knew what style of play about to see when facing the Spartans as they rank 310th of the 340 Division I men’s basketball teams to play a game this season in personal fouls committed. The only team in the Big Ten Conference that has committed more fouls than the Spartans this season is Minnesota. However, it should be noted Minnesota has played two more games than Michigan State this season.
“I thought we responded pretty well to what was a mucked up game and a really physical game,” Underwood said Tuesday night. “We knew we were going to shoot close to 40 free throws tonight. They foul all the time and (Izzo) has got six bodies that he can throw in there in the middle. What they haven’t been doing lately is hitting shots like they did tonight.”
The flagrant foul Underwood referenced became much more severe for the Illini once they arrived back in Champaign as the playing status for Illinois All-American guard Ayo Dosunmu is unclear following the shot he took to the face near the end of the loss at Michigan State on Tuesday night.
After he walked under the basket to check on his star player and while Dosunmu was still laying on the Breslin Center floor, Underwood immediately angrily yelled two comments toward the direction of Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman, who was sitting courtside. When asked by Illini Now/Sports Illustrated to clarify what he said to his boss, Underwood politely declined to repeat what he said at that moment.
Multiple reports have confirmed Dosunmu has suffered a broken nose resulting in a forearm shot he received from Michigan State freshman center Mady Sissoko. Illini Now/SI can confirm Dosunmu will be out for the 6 p.m. tonight against Nebraska at State Farm Center with what the school is calling a "facial injury" and his status for future games is unclear.
"Ayo is eager to play,” Underwood said in a university statement on Thursday afternoon. “We are hopeful for his return to our lineup.”
On a drive to the basket with nearly four minutes left in the game, Dosunmu received either a forearm or elbow to his face from Sissoko on his layup attempt. Dosunmu laid on the floor for a few minutes before getting up on his own and refusing to leave the game for the final four minutes and eight seconds. A replay review by the game officials determined Sissoko be assessed a Flagrant 2 foul that would result in the immediate ejection for the Spartans backup center.
Dosunmu, a finalist for the Bob Cousy Point Guard Award and a preseason first-team All-American selection, leads Illinois in scoring at 21 points per game and in assists with 5.3 per game. Dosunmu is in what most national analysts had determined was a two-player race with Iowa center Luka Garza for both Big Ten Player of the Year and Nasmith National Player of the Year.
Dosunmu struggled in the loss at the Breslin Center as the junior guard finished with 17 points in 37 minutes but was just 6 of 18 from the field, 1 of 6 from three-point range and 4 of 8 from the foul line.
Illinois found little success at the foul line as they missed 15 of 34 attempts from the charity stripe as Izzo’s defensive philosophy in the second half seemed to be centered around fouling the Illini bigs in the paint and any player on a drive to the rim whenever possible.
“Coaches stressed that we were getting a hungry pit bull in (Michigan State) and they practice with football pads and so that’s the thing that everybody hears about with Michigan State,” Illinois senior guard Trent Frazier said Tuesday night. “So, we knew what we were getting tonight. They just punched us in the mouth and we didn’t return.”