Illini knock off Spartans, 53-46

LARRY LAGE AP Sports Writer Published:

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Illinois is on a roll thanks in large part to its stifling defense.

Fighting Illini coach John Groce, though, is not ready to celebrate.

Tracy Abrams scored 12 points, leading Illinois to a 53-46 win over No. 18 Michigan State on Saturday.

The Fighting Illini (17-12, 6-10 Big Ten) have held four consecutive opponents to fewer than 50 points for the first time since the 1947-48 season, according to STATS LLC.

"That's hard to do in this league with the great coaches and great teams," Groce said.

Illinois has three straight victories for the first time since winning four in a row from Dec. 21 to Jan. 4. That successful stretch included a win over then-No. 23 Missouri.

"As soon as you act like you've arrived, you're going to fall pretty quickly," Groce said.

The Spartans (22-7, 11-5) are falling fast. They've lost two straight and six of their last 10 games.

Michigan State was at full strength for the first time in nearly two months, but simply wasn't good enough to beat a streaking team that seemed more inspired.

"I thought our energy level was at an all-time worst," coach Tom Izzo said in a voice barely louder than a whisper.

Branden Dawson returned from a broken hand and played for the first time since Jan. 21, when he helped the Spartans beat Indiana to improve to 18-1 overall and 7-0 in conference.

Michigan State's Gary Harris had 19 points, and didn't get much help from his teammates.

The Spartans scored a season-low 46 points -- five fewer than they had two weeks ago in a nine-point loss to Nebraska. They made 39 percent of their shots and had only one player with more than seven points.

Illinois might've had a lot to do with that.

"They defended very well, which they've been doing," Izzo said. "They turned us over a lot and turned those turnovers into touchdowns."

Adreian Payne, who averages 16-plus points, had just four points to match a season low. Payne wasn't healthy enough to play when the Spartans beat Illinois by 16 points Jan. 18 on the road.

Illinois, meanwhile, had a trio of double-digit scorers and made nearly 48 percent of its shots. Malcom Hill and Rayvonte Rice each had 10 points.

The Illini led by as much as 12 points in the first half before falling into a 28-all tie at halftime.

"We just wanted to go out there and set the tone early," Abrams said. "We wanted to start the game fighting, and that definitely had a big influence."

TOP 25

No. 1 FLORIDA 79, LSU 61

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Dorian Finney-Smith scored 16 points, and top-ranked Florida used a season-high 13 3-pointers to overwhelm LSU 79-61 and extend its school-record winning streak to 21 games.

Casey Prather and Michael Frazier II added 14 points apiece for the Gators, who also won their 31st straight at home.

This one was never in doubt.

Florida (27-2, 16-0 Southeastern Conference) scored the first eight points, opened up a double-digit lead with consecutive 3-pointers from DeVon Walker and Finney-Smith and put the game away early in the second half with a flurry of points in the paint.

Johnny O'Bryant III led the Tigers (17-11, 8-8) with 18 points. Jordan Mickey added 14 points and 10 rebounds for LSU, which lost its seventh straight on the road.

No. 2 WICHITA STATE 68,

MISSOURI STATE 45

WICHITA, Kan. -- Wichita State will carry its pursuit of perfection into the Missouri Valley tournament.

Cleanthony Early scored 19 points, Ron Baker added 13 and the second-ranked Shockers rolled to a 68-45 victory over Missouri State, easily putting away a team that had given them fits this season.

Relying on the same stubborn defense that carried it on last year's improbable March run, Wichita State (31-0, 18-0) became the first team since Saint Joseph's in 2004 to enter its league tournament unbeaten. The Shockers will have a first-round bye in St. Louis next week.

Missouri State (19-11, 9-9) had them in trouble when they met Jan. 11 in Springfield, Mo., but the Bears blew a 19-point second-half lead and ultimately lost 72-69 in overtime.

No. 12 VIRGINIA 75,

No. 4 SYRACUSE 56

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Malcolm Brogdon scored eight of his 19 points during a decisive second-half run and No. 12 Virginia clinched the top seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament by beating No. 4 Syracuse, 75-56.

Akil Mitchell added 12 points and nine rebounds and Mike Tobey and Justin Anderson scored 11 each for the Cavaliers (25-5, 16-1 ACC), who won their only outright ACC regular season title 33 years ago -- 1980-81 -- when Ralph Sampson was a sophomore. The victory was their 13th in a row and the final buzzer brought hundreds streaming onto the court.

Tyler Ennis and C.J. Fair scored 13 each for the Orange (26-3, 13-3), who lost for the third time in four games. Syracuse played much of the game without ailing Jerami Grant because of a sore back.

No. 21 MEMPHIS 72,

No. 7 LOUISVILLE 66

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Chris Crawford hit a 3-pointer with 1:36 left to put Memphis ahead to stay, and the 21st-ranked Tigers beat seventh-ranked Louisville 72-66, sweeping the season series from the Cardinals.

No. 21 Memphis (22-7, 11-5 American Athletic Conference) trailed 65-57 with 4:45 left when Michael Dixon Jr. scored six straight, jumpstarting the Tigers who scored 15 of the final 16 points.

No. 7 Louisville (24-5, 13-3) went cold after taking its biggest lead. The Cardinals didn't score again until Chris Jones hit a free throw with 40.3 seconds to go.

Montrezl Harrell scored a career-high 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Russ Smith scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half. Luke Hancock had 11.

Dixon finished with 18, and Geron Johnson scored 15 points. Austin Nichols added 14, and Crawford finished with 12 points, going 4 for 5 from beyond the arc.

XAVIER 75, No. 9 CREIGHTON 69

CINCINNATI -- Justin Martin had 19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, and Xavier led most of the way during a 75-69 victory over No. 9 Creighton in front of the largest crowd in the 14-year history of the Musketeers' arena.

It was a long-awaited rematch for Xavier, (20-9, 10-6), which lost one of the Big East's most wide-open games at Creighton in January.

Martin led the way. The junior guard helped Xavier control the tempo and build a 13-point lead early in the second half that was more than enough.

Creighton (23-5, 13-3) couldn't catch up despite 27 points by Doug McDermott, who leads the nation in scoring.

UCONN 51, No. 11 CINCINNATI 45

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Shabazz Napier scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead UConn to a 51-45 upset of No. 11 Cincinnati.

The Huskies (23-6, 11-5 American Athletic Conference) won despite going without a field goal for the game's final 71/2 minutes.

But they held Cincinnati (24-5, 13-3) to just 13 baskets on 48 shots.

Napier, the Huskies' player of the year candidate, bested Cincinnati's, Sean Kilpatrick, who finished with 16 points.

No. 16 MICHIGAN 66, MINNESOTA 56

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Nik Stauskas scored 21 points and Glenn Robinson III provided an emotional lift with his dunks as No. 16 Michigan clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title with a 66-56 victory over Minnesota.

The Wolverines (21-7, 13-3) didn't arrive at the Crisler Center expecting to have a chance to lock up their third banner in three years, but Illinois changed that by upsetting Michigan State in East Lansing.

Michigan can clinch its first outright conference title since 1986 with a win Tuesday at Illinois or next Saturday at home against Indiana.

Caris LeVert added 13 points for Michigan, and Jordan Morgan had 10 rebounds. The Crisler Center crowd wasn't told about Michigan State's loss until after the game ended.

Austin Hollins led Minnesota (18-12, 7-10) with 16 points. Andre Hollins had 10 on 3-of-10 shooting.

S. CAROLINA 72, No. 17 KENTUCKY 67

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Brenton Williams scored 24 points for South Carolina, and Kentucky coach John Calipari was ejected midway through the second half as the Gamecocks held off the 17th-ranked Wildcats 72-67 on Saturday night,

South Carolina (11-18, 4-12 Southeastern Conference) led by three at halftime and hit six of its first eight shots in the second half to go up 48-32 with 14:13 left. Kentucky made a furious charge after Calipari was tossed, but came up short.

The Wildcats (21-8, 11-5) couldn't make a basket, going 15:38 with only one field goal -- on a goaltending call. Calipari was ejected with his team down 12 after getting a second technical with 10:21 left. He walked out of the arena with his suit coat buttoned but his shirttail out.

No. 19 NORTH CAROLINA 60, VIRGINIA TECH 56

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- James Michael McAdoo scored 15 points to lead No. 19 North Carolina past Virginia Tech 60-56 for the Tar Heels' 11th straight victory.

McAdoo hit 6 of 9 from the floor for the Tar Heels (22-7, 12-4), who started Atlantic Coast Conference play 1-4 and have not lost since. The Tar Heels haven't won this many games in a row since opening the 2008-09 season with 13 straight victories.

Leslie McDonald added 14 points and J.P. Tokoto finished with 12 for North Carolina.

Eddie led Virginia Tech (9-19, 2-14 ACC) with 18 points.

No. 23 SMU 70, UCF 55

DALLAS -- Markus Kennedy scored 18 points, Nic Moore had 11 of his 13 in the second half and No. 23 SMU took another step toward its first NCAA tournament berth in 21 years with a 70-55 victory against Central Florida.

The Mustangs (23-6, 12-4 American Athletic) improved to 15-0 at home, with the last nine coming at newly renovated Moody Coliseum, going into their final home game Wednesday night against seventh-ranked Louisville. The Cardinals lost to No. 21 Memphis 72-66 on Saturday.

Moore, who also had game highs with six assists and four steals, had consecutive 3-pointers for a 45-27 lead with 13:53 remaining, pumping his arms wildly as he stomped up the court with a loud roar from the sixth sellout crowd since Moody reopened in January.

Isaiah Sykes had 18 points to lead UCF (11-16, 3-13).

OKLAHOMA 77, No. 24 TEXAS 65

NORMAN, Okla. -- Isaiah Cousins scored a career-high 24 points and Oklahoma gained ground in the race for second place in the Big 12 with a 77-65 win over No. 24 Texas.

Buddy Hield hit four 3-pointers and scored 17 points for Oklahoma (21-8, 10-6), which entered the game in a four-way battle with Texas (21-8, 10-6), Kansas State and Iowa State behind Kansas.

After Saturday, all four teams will have two games remaining.

Oklahoma committed a season-low seven turnovers while completing a regular-season sweep of the Longhorns. The Sooners have won three of the last four games in the series after Texas had won 12 of the previous 15.

Cameron Ridley had his eighth double-double of the season with 19 points and 14 rebounds for Texas, which has lost three of its last four games after winning nine of its previous 10, all in league play.

BIG TEN

NEBRASKA 54, NORTHWESTERN 47

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Shavon Shields had 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead Nebraska, which took a 10-point lead with 7 minutes left and held on to defeat Northwestern, 54-47.

With the win, Nebraska (17-11, 9-7 Big Ten) is guaranteed a top-six finish and .500 conference record, both Big Ten firsts for the Huskers, now in their third season in the conference. Nebraska won nine conference games for the first time since 1998-99 and only the 10th time since World War II.

Northwestern (12-17, 5-11) has now lost six straight games, a streak that began with a 53-49 loss to Nebraska on Feb. 8.

Nebraska took the lead 31/2 minutes into the game and never trailed thereafter. Northwestern cut the lead to 31-30 on Drew Crawford's 3-pointer with 11:46 remaining.

A 3-point play by Shields triggered a 13-4 Nebraska run that made the score 44-34 with 7 minutes left.

MAC

TOLEDO 96, W. MICHIGAN 85 OT

TOLEDO -- Justin Drummond scored 28 points and Toledo rallied late to tie before pulling away from Western Michigan in overtime, 96-85.

Toledo (24-5, 12-4 Mid-American) trailed by 13 after half before battling back and finishing regulation on a 14-2 run.

Drummond tied the game at 75 on a put-back layup. A five-second inbounds violation gave possession to Toledo before Jonathan Williams hit two free throws to give Toledo its first lead, 77-75.

Western Michigan's Tucker Haymond hit two free throws to even the score with 34.3 remaining. Toledo had the final shot but Julius Brown's buzzer-beater attempt missed.

Toledo opened OT on a 5-0 spurt and outscored Western Michigan 19-8 overall.

Brown had 18 points and 10 assists. J.D. Weatherspoon (14), Nathan Boothe (13) and Rian Pearson (11) also scored in double figures.

David Brown scored 29 for the Broncos (19-9, 12-4). Shayne Whittington had 25 points and 13 rebounds.

BUFFALO 78, MIAMI (OH) 55

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Joshua Freelove scored 21 of his 24 points in the second half as Buffalo won its fourth straight game, 78-55 over Miami (Ohio).

Buffalo trailed 30-28 at the half, but doubled Miami's output, 50-25, after the intermission.

Javon McCrea had 13, Jarod Oldham 11 and Will Regan added 10 for Buffalo (18-8, 12-4 Mid-American Conference).

Oldham and Freelove made three consecutive 3-pointers, during an 11-0 run, to build a 45-35 lead. Miami went scoreless for over 4 minutes during the stretch.

Will Felder led Miami (11-16, 7-9) with 12 points and Quinten Rollins had 11.

Buffalo sits atop the Mid-American East standings and travels to Akron on Tuesday.

KENT ST. 75, OHIO 61

ATHENS -- Devareaux Manley scored 17 points and Derek Jackson added 16 as Kent State topped Ohio, 75-61.

Kent State (16-13, 7-9 Mid-American) used a 17-0 run to open a 20-8 lead and maintained a double-digit advantage for most of the remainder of the game.

The Golden Flashes shot 48.9 percent from the field, including 9 of 14 from long range with Manley hitting 5 of 6 to lead Kent State. The Golden Flashes also made 22 of 25 free throws, led by Kellon Thomas who was 9 of 10.

Kris Brewer added 12 points and eight assists for Kent State.

Travis Wilkins scored 14 points to lead Ohio (19-10, 9-7).

E. MICHIGAN 56, N. ILLINOIS 52

YPSILANTI, Mich. -- Mike Talley tied his career high with 21 points and Eastern Michigan scored the last 10 points of the game as the Eagles defeated Northern Illinois, 56-52.

The Eagles (17-12, 9-7 Mid-American) trailed by 13 points when they went on a 12-0 run to get within 43-42 with 8:44 left. Then, down 52-46 with 3:17 to go, they staged their second run to triumph with Talley's 3-pointer with 22 seconds left breaking the final tie.

The Huskies (13-15, 7-9) got 11 points from Aaric Armstead.

BALL ST. 74, C. MICHIGAN 71

MUNCIE, Ind. -- Majok Majok had 14 points and 14 rebounds and Jesse Berry scored 20 to lead Ball State over Central Michigan 74-71.

Tyler Koch's layup with 3:13 left put Ball State up 60-52, and the Cardinals (5-22, 2-14 Mid-American) made 14 of 16 free throws from there to hold on for the win.

Chris Fowler had 26 points, nine assists and five rebounds for Central Michigan (10-18, 3-13).

Zavier Turner scored 12 and Chris Bond 10 as Ball State snapped a 10-game losing streak.

AKRON 57, BOWLING GREEN 47

AKRON -- Demetrius Treadwell scored 17 points and reached 1,000 career points as Akron opened a three-game homestand with a victory over Bowling Green.

Treadwell hit a fadeaway jumper for his first basket at the end of the first half, and needed 14 more points to reach the 1,000 mark. He scored his 16th point -- followed by a standing ovation -- with 5:09 left to play, and finished with a career-high five assists.

Bowling Green (12-17, 6-10 Mid-American) made back-to-back buckets to tie up the game at 32 with 12:14 remaining. The Zips (18-11, 10-6) answered, outscoring Bowling Green by 13 points to go up by their largest margin.

Holmes led the Falcons with 14 points.

OHIO COLLEGES

CLEV. ST. 63, VALPARAISO 52

VALPARAISO, Ind. -- Trey Lewis and Marlin Mason scored 11 points apiece as Cleveland State dumped Valparaiso, 63-52.

Cleveland State (21-10, 12-4 Horizon) played eight players, seven of which scored between six and 11 points. Ludovic Ndaye added 10 points and seven rebounds while Charlie Lee had six assists and four steals to go with his six points.

LaVonte Dority led Valpo (17-14, 9-7) with 13 points.

WRIGHT ST. 68, ILL.-CHICAGO 61

CHICAGO -- AJ Pacher scored 16 points to lead Wright State to a 68-61 win over Illinois-Chicago.

Matt Vest added 11 points for the Raiders (18-13, 10-6 Horizon League), who shot 50 percent and had assists on 17 of their 23 field goals.

Kelsey Barlow had 16 points for the Flames (6-24, 1-15), who ended a 17-game losing their in the last outing. Jordan Harks contributed 13 points and Pat Birt had 12 off the bench.

DAYTON 86, UMASS 79

DAYTON -- Jordan Sibert matched his career-high with 23 points and Dayton hit enough free throws down the stretch to defeat Massachusetts, 86-79.

Dyshawn Pierre added 16 points, Vee Sanford 15, Devin Oliver 11 and Khari Price 10 for the Flyers (20-9, 8-6 Atlantic 10), who made 9 of 16 free throws in the final 2 minutes.

Trey Davis scored 19 points for the Minutemen (22-6, 9-5) with Chaz Williams adding 17 and Derrick Gordon 15.

OTHERS

IPFW 96, OMAHA 95 OT

OMAHA, Neb. -- Steve Forbes scored 21 points, including two free throws with three-tenths of a second left, to lift IPFW to a 96-95 overtime victory over Omaha and secure the No. 2 seed for Summit League tournament.

Forbes, fouled by John Karhoff on a 3-point attempt, made the first two free throws for the victory. The Mastadons (22-9, 10-4) got a basket by Pierre Bland with 4 seconds left to cut Omaha's lead to one and a turnover gave the ball back to IPFW.

Luis Jacobo scored 20 points and Pierre Bland and Joe Edwards added 18 apiece for IPFW. Bland also had 10 assists.

Marcus Tyus scored 21 points and CJ Carter 20 to lead five Omaha (16-14, 5-9) players in double figures.

IPFW finished with its best Summit League record.

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