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‘Only up from here’: Illinois downs Michigan State, extends win streak to three


Champaign, Illinois — Illinois is streaking.

Illinois picked up momentum with two straight wins and quickly returned to the Big Ten mix after a 0-3 start in the conference. That said, extending the streak on Friday night was a very difficult task as the Tom Izzo-led Michigan Spartans visited the State Farm Center.

After trailing by four at halftime and trailing by nine in the second half, Matthew Mayer and Dane Dinger combined for 26 points as they beat Illinois (12-5, 3-3 Big Ten) 75-66. led.

“We beat a really good basketball team tonight,” head coach Brad Underwood said.

Mayer and Dinja weren’t in the spotlight for the entire game as Terrence Shannon Jr. led by 15 points in the first half. Shannon’s scoring was then halted, but that started Mayer’s second-half scoring barrage.two Huge A shot from behind the arc highlighted Mayer’s night on the run, taking the Illini from 5 down to 5 up in minutes.

“I knew that [Underwood] I was trying to get the ball as much as possible,” Mayer said. “We struggled all the way through the beginning of the season, but when everyone started to move he found them and that’s what happened tonight.”

Mayer has done it on the defensive end as well. He has stats you wouldn’t expect from a player like him.

“It’s rare to get a six-block perimeter player,” Underwood said. “So it’s not just the offensive numbers, he had six blocks tonight.”

Dinja’s workload was mostly paint, showing strength on offense When Defense against Spartans with not large internal size.

“I just get better [interior play] Every game,” said Dainja. “Sometimes I mess it up a bit, but most of the time I try to have active feet and active hands and it shows.”

The Big Ten from Michigan (12-5, 4-2) relied heavily on rebounding and efficient shooting to beat their opponents on a seven-game winning streak. His AJ Hoggard (20 points) and Tyson Walker (14 points) at guard were a big part of the aforementioned efficient shooting.

“We were really just trying to emphasize the long two, and that’s what our whole defense is about,” Mayer said. They’re both talented players, and that’s something we’re willing to give up.”

From there, Illinois has a better field goal percentage (45% to 43.1%).

Michigan State rebounded Illinois on the defensive end (27 to 22), but improvements at halftime (especially by Dinger) allowed Illinois to dominate in that category in the second half.

“I really challenged [Dainja] Because we didn’t have a defensive rebound at halftime,” Underwood said. “Everyone in this room has seen Dane the dominant rebounder. We need it from him.”

This win is huge for Big Ten play moving forward, and it looks like the Illini have finally made their progress.

“I think it only goes up from here,” Mayer said. “I still believe in my heart that I can win the national championship.”

  • Orochi zone: Dainja spent the night Friday scoring 20 points (the only Illini to score 20 or more) and grabbing eight rebounds. He went 4-for-5 from the free-throw line, a spectacle every Illini nation wants to see.
  • Halftime deficit: The Illini didn’t do well at halftime this season, having a 1-4 record in those games.

They flipped that script on Friday night.

  • 10-0 run: The Illini were trailed by five points around the 10th minute of the second half, but made it five on a 10-0 run that included two 3-pointers from Matthew Mayer. After running, they never followed again.

Meyer sends this into oblivion.

Mayer also started a run in this shot and made a building stone.

I know I mentioned it above, but the State Farm Center is actually Electrical.

Illinois beats the Twin Cities in a row and has an MLK day matchup with Minnesota.

Information for the Gophers is scheduled for 5pm CT on BTN.

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