The increased role of the transfer portal has changed the landscape for many big-time schools. That’s why the continuity in Michigan State’s program this season stands out.
Most of the Spartans’ rotation players from last season are still playing key roles. That chemistry helped them collect a big road win at Wisconsin on Tuesday. They will look for another when they visit Illinois on Friday night.
Returnees scored all of their points in a 69-65 victory over the Badgers, led by Joey Hauser with 20 points and eight rebounds.
“Experience matters. It really does, especially in this day and age,” coach Tom Izzo said. “What I’ve got is a little different than some, all of my guys have played together. It’s not a factory of guys running in, running out. Those guys have a feel for one another. The huddles are pretty good that way. Those guys are challenging one another. That was big for us, I think that helps.”
Michigan State trailed by five points with four minutes left, then outscored the Badgers 15-6.
“Our focus down the stretch was big, especially with the hostile environment we were in, the way the game was going with a lot of the lead changes and the back-and-forth,” guard A.J. Hoggard said.
The Spartans (12-4, 4-1 Big Ten) have won seven straight and could return to the Top 25 if they defeat the Fighting Illini.
Illinois (11-5, 2-3) defeated Wisconsin for its first conference victory on Saturday, then added another by pounding Nebraska 76-50 on Tuesday.
Texas Tech transfer Terrence Shannon Jr. has led the way in both contests. He scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds against the Badgers, then piled up 25 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals against the Cornhuskers.
Illinois limited Nebraska to 37 percent shooting and forced 17 turnovers.
“On the offensive side, I thought we moved the ball. Fourteen assists — good total,” coach Brad Underwood said. “We were patient, we took what was there, didn’t force anything. And then (Shannon) is truly playing like one of the best players in our league. All in all, didn’t expect this coming in but I sure was pleased with our defensive effort.”
–Field Level Media