Down by three to Michigan late Thursday night, Illinois needed the ball and they needed a basket.
The Spartans finished 7 of 18 at the line, showing why they entered the game 14th in the conference in free throws and 321st in the nation.
The national champion Buckeyes were again, and predictably, the best in the Big Ten in this year’s recruiting class.
Tom Izzo sounded glad the game was over.
Although neither team is ranked, Sunday’s game is still a big one with potential NCAA tournament implications.
When the clock expired at the end of Michigan’s overtime loss to Wisconsin over the weekend, a significant portion of the crowd at Crisler Center began applauding.
The Wolverines tied the game on Derrick Walton’s 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left in regulation, but the Badgers went right back to their 7-footer, Kaminsky, in overtime.
MSU’s Travis Trice scored 23 of his 27 points in the second half, and Denzel Valentine finished with 21. Branden Dawson tied a career-high with 18 rebounds to go with his eight points.
Freshman Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman nailed a 3-pointer with less than a minute to go, giving Michigan (11-7, 4-2 Big Ten) a 56-52 lead with 1:02 left.
Ohio State’s thrashing of Oregon in the title game was more than just an ego boost for the Big Ten.