Michigan State basketball: Win over Illinois critical for Spartans’ path to postseason

EAST LANSING — It was much more than a lifeline. Knocking off No. 12 Illinois gave Michigan State basketball’s NCAA tournament push a massive jolt.

For the Spartans, it was not only a second victory over a ranked opponent, but a flood of confidence heading toward the postseason, on top of the toughness Tom Izzo’s team showed in getting it done.

Assuming MSU avoids an upset over the final seven games of the regular season — no easy task considering the topsy-turvy nature of the Big Ten this winter — Izzo likely will extend his NCAA streak, a record for a coach with a single school, to 26 straight appearances. And much like Saturday’s 88-80 comeback victory from eight points down against the Illini, it hasn’t come easy.

“Let’s face it: Our backs are a little bit against the wall. But I deal with that,” Izzo said after watching his team close the win on a 13-4 burst over the final 2:15. “I tell them right out. … I just think that they don’t understand. They just think they’re at Michigan State, so it’s in the cards that you’re in the tournament and you’re this and you’re that. So we’ve had some hellacious meetings on that.”

Michigan State’s A.J. Hoggard, left, celebrates with Tyson Walker late during the second half in the game against Illinois on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

SHAWN WINDSOR: Tom Izzo, A.J. Hoggard often at odds. Michigan State basketball’s win shows it’s worth it.

Said senior point guard A.J. Hoggard, who keyed the victory with 13 of his 23 points in the final 12:27: “It was definitely like a March Madness type feel. It was good to just be able to win this one.”

At 15-9 overall and 7-6 in Big Ten play, the Spartans moved up a spot in the NCAA’s NET rankings, entering Sunday at No. 23 thanks to the win over the Illini, who are No. 14. Asked where that victory can take his team with the postseason fast approaching, senior Tyson Walker gave a smile and a quick, correctly circumspect…


Source link : https://sports.yahoo.com/michigan-state-basketball-win-over-111355333.html

Author : Detroit Free Press

Publish date : 2024-02-12 11:13:55

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