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Spartans Fall to the Fighting Illini

Full of burnt orange that reminded me of the Texas national championship the night before, Assembly Hall was rocking here in Champaign tonight. I arrived early to watch the Illini practice and to sit down for an interview with Coach Weber for an upcoming Hondo’s House show. “This is a huge game and rivalry for us. We definitely realize and recognize MSU and Coach Izzo as among the best, and it’s great to face that kind of competition,” said Weber. “We’re all friends, I love what Coach Izzo does to his program, we know the players and they know us, we are really a lot alike and that makes the games a lot of fun,” said All American guard Dee Brown.

The Illini executed a game plan that let Shannon Brown and Paul Davis have their points but focused in on Mo Ager. That game plan allowed Davis and Brown to get 29 points, but held Ager to a less than impressive 9. In the meantime, Dee Brown went off for 34, hitting a most impressive 35 foot 3 pointer and the Illini went on to a 10-point win, 60-50.

“I think our defense was good, we just need our seniors to play better and they didn’t,” said a visibly frustrated Izzo. ‘I don’t think our defense was good at all, we needed to play better and we didn’t’ was Shannon Brown’s take on the game. Sophomore Drew Neitzel only had 2 points, but he also had 2 turnovers and 7 assists. “I think that we played pretty good defense, but we just didn’t finish and missed some shots. It’s frustrating, but we just need to look at some film then put it behind us and think about the Badgers” said Neitzel.

I do agree with Neitzel and Izzo however. From my vantage at courtside, I think MSU did play good defense in a very hostile environment (that is not meant as a slam, the fans were loud but very gracious) and it was simply a matter of execution. On numerous occasions MSU passed up shots that they needed to take, but overall, you can’t blame them when Dee hits a 35 footer.

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MSU lost and that never tastes good, but Illinois once again had an out-of-this-world performance from Dee Brown and MSU had a dismal offensive performance (credit that to the ferocious UI defense) shooting only 36.2% from the field. I think that MSU has already circled the return trip to the Breslin as a statement game. All of us have to love the Big Ten and this just makes us better. It certainly is not the end of the world and will be a great lesson as I am very much sure that we will NOT play in an environment like that in the Big Ten again this season.

Like I said, we hate to lose, but remember the old adage that what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger? That is so true here. Now we go to Madison!