Tonight, in East Lansing, another big moment for the Michigan State Spartans is at hand.
At the start of this season, the Fighting Illini looked unstoppable. Twelve-straight wins, including a decisive win over Gonzaga and effortlessly taking the Maui Invitational title, had Illinois as the team to beat in the early season.
So what was the key to the Illini's success at first? Three-pointers. Plain and simple. They quickly rose to one of the best three-point shooting teams in the Big Ten Conference.
Only now, Illinois isn't making hardly as many three-pointers. In fact, they've gone on a disappointing 3-6 run after their incredible start due to their sudden inability to sink the deep shot--a shot they take often. Illini coach John Groce said that at some point, his team has to get back into the swing of things and rematch their earlier efforts on the season.
"You've got to throw a couple in," Groce said after his team went 6-for-26 (23.1%) in three-point shots on Sunday during the Illini's 74-60 loss to Michigan.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, though, isn't fooled. He feels that Illinois is a team that is poised to burst onto the scene again once they find their groove, and above all else, he wants to keep his players on their toes to make sure that doesn't happen tonight at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
"It would be different if they just did it for a couple games in the nonconference, but they did it almost the entire nonconference where they made three after three after three," Izzo said. "Who knows why it dropped so much. They have proven over a period of time that they are capable three-point shooters."
Overall, Izzo added that Illinois is "about as dangerous as a team you can play." The Spartans proved on Sunday that they could roll with the nation's toughest teams in their tough 75-70 loss at Indiana, but a team that is able to consistantly sink three-pointers...well, that's going to be a tough team for and squad to beat.
You can follow MSU Examiner, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.