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Michigan State basketball: 3 keys to victory vs. No. 10 Illinois

What must the Spartans do?

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Michigan State basketball
© Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

If Michigan State basketball is going to pull off the upset on Saturday afternoon, it needs to do these three things.

This is a big one, folks. Michigan State basketball welcomes No. 10 Illinois to town for a rematch after it suffered a 71-68 loss in early January. This is the last big home game of the season and the best opportunity for a quad one win in the regular season.

Illinois undoubtedly pose a major test for the team, so the Spartans will have to bring their A-game if they want to win. Here are my three keys for MSU to pull off the win against Illinois.

1. More contributions from the bench

The play from Michigan State’s role players has been up and down all season. Each role player has had a few break out games, but nobody has turned into a reliable scoring threat every game.

That’s exactly what happened the first time these two teams played in January. Four out of the five MSU starters scored at least 13 points, which is excellent production from that group. But the rest of the team combined for only eight points. It’s hard to beat the best teams in the country with that little production from your bench.

Maybe it will be different on Saturday considering this game is at home. But regardless, Michigan State needs more production from their role players and that has to start in this game.

2. Slow down Terrence Shannon Jr.

Terrence Shannon Jr. is by far the best player for Illinois. However, the Spartans didn’t have to worry about him in the first meeting as he was serving a suspension. The Illini proved to be an all around team while he was suspended, but Shannon will give MSU everything they can handle.

Shannon is averaging 20 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game this season. Since returning from his month long suspension, his scoring has dropped slightly to 16.2 points per game. His last two games, however, he scored 23 and 18, respectively, so Shannon might have found his grove again since his suspension.

As mentioned, MSU hasn’t faced Shannon this season, so they will be seeing a brand new Illinois team compared to the first game. But Shannon is someone who can single handedly win Illinois this game. MSU defensively is going to have to key in on him all game if they want to win.

3. Finish the game

This has been one of the more frustrating parts to MSU’s season this year. Many of Michigan State’s losses were close games at the end, but the Spartans couldn’t find a way to win the game. The last time against Illinois was one of those games as they cut the Illini lead to one late in the game multiple times before losing.

But the Illinois game wasn’t the only time they’ve struggled with this. Last time out against Minnesota saw the Spartans collapse at the end of the game as well. The Spartans also had a chance to win some of their other losses earlier in the season as well.

If MSU wants to go on a run to finish the season, it has to be better at finishing games. This game likely will be close at the end, so they’ll have a chance to do just that on Saturday.

Lead writer for Spartan Shadows since April 2023, writing over 450 articles. Michigan State basketball, football and recruiting expert. Class of 2019 graduate from Michigan State University specializing in Sports Management. Daily MSU runs a popular X page (@daily_msu) covering all things MSU Sports.

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