CHAMPAIGN — Perhaps worse than the buzzer sounding at the State Farm Center with Michigan State leading by one-point to hand the Illinois men's basketball team was the sight of Illini sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu on the court in front of the team's bench clutching his leg.
Dosunmu took the ball coast-to-coast with six seconds left, trying to help Illinois overcome what was once a 20-point deficit. Dosunmu slipped on the floor, turned it over and the Spartans left Champaign with a 70-69 win over No. 22 Illinois on Tuesday night. Dosunmu was helped off the court to the locker room.
Illinois needed one stop on defense, one stop to erase a 20-point deficit and to snap a two-game losing streak.
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The Illini clawed all the way back to take a one-point lead with 19 seconds left after a pair of free throws from Kofi Cockburn and nearly got their stop on the other end. Michigan State star guard Cassius Winston drove to the lane and missed a layup but forward Xavier Tillman got his hands on the rebound and flushed home the go-ahead dunk with six seconds left to take the lead back.
The loss is the third in a row for Illinois (16-8, 8-5) and Michigan State (17-8, 9-5) snapped a three-game losing streak. Dosunmu led Illinois with 17 points and had 15 of them in a brilliant second half that nearly helped Illinois overcome a slow, poor-shooting first half.
Similar to the Miami game earlier this season, in which Illinois trailed by more than 20 points, the Illini roared back behind the play of Dosunmu and Andres Feliz, who scored 15 points on Tuesday. Illinois forced turnovers, got in transition and scored.
In the first half, Illinois shot 26 percent from the field with seven turnovers and trailed by 17 at halftime. No player on the Illini roster made more than one field goal in the first half. The second half was different and the Spartans committed 10 of their 16 turnovers in the second half.
Michigan State guard Rocket Watts scored a game-high 21 points and Tillman has 17 points and 11 rebounds.