Sunday, Jan. 30 1:00pm ET
Spartans treat Izzo to big birthday win
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told Charlie Bell to start shooting more. Bell took him seriously.
Bell scored 20 points and Morris Peterson 18 as the No. 9 Spartans (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) gave Izzo a 91-66 win over Illinois on his 45th birthday Sunday.
"Since then, he hasn't told me I've taken a bad shot yet."
Bell was forced to run the offense the first half of the season while Cleaves recovered from a broken foot. This was only the seventh game since Cleaves, a two-time All-American, returned Jan. 5.
"That's maybe as well as we've played," Izzo said. "We're seeing the results of Mateen getting his physical conditioning back, and Charlie Bell looked for some shots."
It was the 23rd straight home victory for the Spartans (15-5, 6-1 Big Ten), tying a school record set in the early 1930s and matched during the mid-1960s.
The Fighting Illini (11-7, 3-4), playing without Marcus Griffin, sidelined since Jan. 21 with a knee injury, went without a field goal for the first 10:42 of the second half. By that time, Michigan State had built a 36-point lead.
"There is a big gap between us and Michigan State," Illinois coach Lon Kruger said. "We have a long way to go and hard work to do to try and bite into that gap a little."
Cory Bradford, hounded by Bell and Cleaves, scored 13 points for the Illini, hitting 5 of 11 shots, only one from 3-point range.
"We put a few guys on him and took away a few of his shots," Izzo said.
The Spartans took the lead early and never let up.
Bell, who scored 13 points in the first half, had seven points and Peterson hit three of his five 3-pointers as Michigan State broke to a 27-14 lead with 9:55 left in the half.
Illinois, with Frank Williams hitting a 3-pointer and three free throws, narrowed the gap to 32-26 with 5:34 left, but Michigan State held the Illini scoreless for the next 3:23.
Meanwhile, Cleaves went the length of the court for a driving layup that triggered a 17-4 burst that sent the Spartans off with a 49-30 lead at halftime. Cleaves had six of his 13 points during the spurt and Bell also got back into it with a 3-pointer and a three-point play during the run.
Bell scored 10 points to help the Spartans open the second half with an 18-1 run to lead 67-31 with 11:33 remaining.
"That was important that Charlie came out early like that," said Cleaves, who finished with a season-high 12 assists.
Michigan State, which had a 41-16 rebounding advantage, began clearing its bench with 4:32 left, following two free throws by David Thomas that gave the Spartans an 82-46 lead.
"We were a step behind all day," Kruger said. "As a result,
they were shooting shots they shoot in practice. We didn't do much
to disrupt them or get them out of their rhythm."
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