Written by Sean Merriman
Dee Brown entered Saturdayâ€™s game at Michigan State in a bit of a shooting slump. The All American candidate was shooting just 27% from 3-point range in his last fourteen games. His last breakout game came against the Spartans all the way back on January 5th where he lit the Spartans up for 34 points.
Dee Brown broke out of that slump on Saturday in a big way.
Brown led the Fighting Illini with 20 points, 16 of which came in the second half. He made two of his five three point shots during a crucial 12-0 run to lead No.10 Illnois to a 75-68 victory over the Spartans.
â€œDee Brown killed us then and Dee Brown killed us now,: said MSU head coach Tom Izzo. Dee Brown is to them what Mateen Cleaves was to us. He should just be called a winner.â€
Senior Paul Davis, who was honored before the game on senior day, led the Spartans with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Junior Guard Shannon Brown poured in 20 points of his own and Maurice Ager added 15.
The trio was not enough to stop the Illini however, as Bruce Webberâ€™s club finished the big ten tied for second place and the Spartans fell to a sixth place tie with Michigan. â€œItâ€™s a real low point for usâ€ said Davis after the loss.
The loss was costly for MSU, as they are now forced to play on the first day of the conference tournament. This had not happened to the Spartans since the 1996-97 big ten season.
â€œI think Iâ€™ve got a worn out team,â€ Izzo said. We were just flat out beat. I just donâ€™t think we had anything left in us.â€
The Spartans are going to have to wake up come Thursday when they battle 11th seed Purdue in Indianapolis. In order to win the tournament, they will be forced to win four games in four days.
This is going to be especially difficult for the Spartans due to their lack of bench production this season.
Ager, Brown, Davis, and Drew Neitzel combined for all the Spartans points in the first half. The Michigan State bench was outscored 19-5 in way to the Illnois victory.
On top of that, the Spartans just found out that power forward Marquise Gray, suffered a broken foot in the Wisconsin game and will miss the remainder of the season. The good news for MSU is that Senior Matt Trannon, who suffered a broken jaw, should be ready for the Big Ten Tournament.
The Spartans open tournament play against Purdue at 5:05 pm on Thursday in Indianapolis.