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Illinois Basketball Wins A B1G Dog-fight



Jan 11, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Ty Rodgers (20) drives past Michigan State Spartans center Carson Cooper (15) on the floor, during the second half at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois Basketball team was able to hold onto a tough 71-68 win over Michigan State after a strong start. The Illini came out the gate strong, opening up an early double-digit lead. The Spartans fought back multiple times, even taking the lead multiple times in the second half. The Illini were able to come up with just enough stops and made their free throws to close out the win.

1. Consistency from Coleman

Anyone who’s watched Illinois Basketball for the last few years has seen the flashes from Coleman Hawkins. For a recruit ranked in the 200s out of high school, he’s come a long way. He scored in double digits in the last seven games, while providing his usual heady but intense defense. Against Michigan State he was everywhere defensively, swallowing up drives from all of Michigan State’s guards. He finished with 4 blocks 2 steals and even more outstanding perimeter defense on switches. Offensively he has really found a rhythm with his jumper, going 3-5 from deep. He also made two stones free throws with under a minute to go. As long as Terrence Shannon Jr. is out the Illini need that scoring, and Hawkins looks like he can provide.

2. Turbo Ty

Michigan State largely followed Matt Painter’s example by starting his center on Ty Rodgers defensively. Unlike Painter, Izzo dug a deep hole for his team. Rodgers came out aggressive, scoring 12 points in the first half. He also made three of his four free throws, with all of them looking pretty good. That improvement from the line should help him be even more aggressive and is a great omen for him potentially improving other parts of his game. He provides such great ball handling with either hand and also provides great physicality and defense. His continuation to grow will be critical to the future of the program.

3. Title Charge

With the win the Illini go to 12-3, and 3-1 in the conference. They’re just a game behind the current leaders in undefeated Wisconsin. The Illini are favored in Kenpom in their next seven games. Wisconsin’s success will be interesting to watch, but with Purdue having two losses, the Illini need to continue to take care of business. Underwood said the team had the flu, making the win even gutsier. In a top-heavy Big Ten taking your gimmes will be critical. Even if they lose to Purdue, the title will be won over 20 games, not two head-to-head matchups.

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Brian is a former sports writer for the Daily Illini who has been covering Illinois Basketball for over 5 years. Brian is now the lead basketball reporter for Armchair Illini, the go-to source for Illinois athletics news. He has had work published on Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, USA Today and more.