Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Garris Guides Illini Past Michigan State

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Garris Guides Illini Past Michigan State

Article excerpt

The role of spoiler seems to suit this Illinois basketball team.

Minnesota had rolled up 10 wins in a row when the Illini stunned the Gophers last week.

And Michigan State had cruised to four consecutive wins and was threatening to become a factor in the Big Ten Conference race when Illinois came to town Wednesday. Again, the Illini rose up: Guided by four-year starter Kiwane Garris, they slipped past the Spartans 66-63 . The victory came before 12,975 at the Breslin Center, where Michigan St ate had gone 8-1 this season and 92-21 since the building opened in 1989. And now, Illinois (14-4 and ranked 25th in the USA Today/CNN coaches poll) is making waves of its own in conference play. At 4-2, the Illini trail only Minnesota and Iowa, both 5-1. Illinois benefited by a quirk in marksmanship: The Illini shot better from 3-point country (11 of 22) than Michigan State did from the free-throw line (nine of 21). "You can't win games against good teams when you go nine for 21 from the free-throw line," second-year Spartans coach Tom Izzo said, "and you can't win games against good teams when you give them wide-open 3s." Michigan State was particularly woeful from the line in the second half, going seven for 16. The Spartans - who had hit a respectable 72 percent this season - were in the double-bonus with 11 1/2 minutes to go, but it provided little benefit. "Points were hard to come by," Illinois coach Lon Kruger noted. But when the Illini needed them, they generally got them. After a nine-point surge put Michigan State up 40-35 early in the second, Illini freshman Victor Chukwudebe ripped down the rebound of a 3-point try by Garris. Chukwudebe's putback started Illinois on a seven-point run. The Spartans led 43-42 when center Chris Gandy shook loose underneath, took a pass from Garris, and jammed the Illini back on top. That ignited another seven-point burst. Illinois was clinging to a 58-55 advantage and hadn't scored in nearly three minutes when Garris sliced into the lane, then kicked the ball out to fellow guard Matt Heldman. His jumper - from at least 22 feet - slammed home. Michigan State had cut its deficit to 61-60 in the final minute. …

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