EAST LANSING, Michigan (Ticker) -- Freshman Paul Davis provided a big lift and sophomore Chris Hill hit a big shot for Michigan State.
Davis scored a season-high 15 points and Hill converted a clutch 3-pointer with less than a minute left to help the Spartans to a 68-65 victory over No. 14 Illinois in a Big Ten Conference battle.
The win was the second over a ranked conference rival in less than a week for Michigan State (12-8, 4-4), which beat No. 20 Indiana, 61-54, on Tuesday.
In that game, the Spartans held Indiana's Bracey Wright, who was averaging 19.1 points, to four points in 29 minutes. On Sunday, they held Illinois forward Brian Cook to 13 points, eight below his season average.
Cook scored nine of his points in the first eight minutes but got into foul trouble and was not able to regain his rhythm, hitting just 4-of-11 shots from the field.
The 6-11 Davis, who totaled just 16 points in his previous four conference games, helped defend Cook in the lane and provided an unexpected offensive spark.
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Illinois (15-4, 5-3), which fell 1 1/2 games behind Purdue and one behind Michigan in the conference standings.
Kelvin Torbert converted a pair of free throws to give Michigan State the lead for good at 63-62 with 2:36 left. After Sean Harrington missed a 3-pointer for Illinois, Davis hit a short jumper from the right side with 1:54 remaining.
Cook made a pair of free throws with 1:24 left to pull Illinois within a point. But Hill connected on a 3-pointer from the right side to increase the lead to 68-64 with 59 seconds remaining.
"Erazem (Lorbek) set a great screen," Hill said. "Coach drew that play in the huddle and told me if I get an opening shoot it and stick it. I got that look."
Freshman Dee Brown missed a 3-pointer for Illinois, but Alan Anderson missed a chance to add to the advantage, missing the front end of a 1-and-1 with 33 seconds left. Harrington was fouled with 20 seconds remaining but made just 1-of-2 free throws.
Davis had an opportunity to virtually seal the game but missed a pair of free throws with 19 seconds remaining. However, Cook missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer from the right side with seven seconds left and Anderson grabbed the rebound.
Anderson finished with 15 points and Tolbert added 11.
"I was proud of my guys on how we played down the stretch," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "I think this rivalry with Illinois has gotten to be as good as it gets. Give our crowd credit because I think they willed that win. That is what a home crowd has to do for you and they sure did."
The Fighting Illini raced to a 15-2 lead in the first six minutes and shot 54 percent in the first half. But they shot just 33 percent (7-of-21) in the second half.
Luther Head scored 11 points and Brown had 10 in the first half for Illinois, but they were held scoreless in the second half, combining to miss all five shots from the field.
Cook scored seven points and Head connected on a pair of 3-pointers during Illinois' opening 15-2 run. The Spartans missed five of their first six shots and committed six turnovers.
But Michigan State settled down and went on an 11-3 run as Davis hit three free throws and a basket. But Brown made a jumper and two layups in a span of 38 seconds to open Illinois' advantage to 24-13.
Another layup by Brown off a steal gave Illinois its biggest lead at 38-24 with 2:14 left.
Michigan State closed the half with a 10-2 spurt. Hill ignited it with a 3-pointer and Anderson capped it with a controversial 3-pointer at the buzzer, pulling the Spartans within 40-34.
Illinois coach Bill Self argued vehemently with referee Tim Higgins, claiming Anderson did not get the shot off before the buzzer, Replays showed he may have been correct, but the call stood.
"He said it was so close he thought it was good," Self said. "Of course he thought it was good, he called it good. My question to him was, 'Can you go to the monitor on that?' Obviously, it's against the rules to go to the monitor on that, I guess, unless it's the end of the game."
Big Ten observer of officials Ken Sudall confirmed replay is used only at the end of the game or overtime.
"There was no option to go to the video (at halftime) except when there is a timing error or malfunction," Sudall said. "There was no doubt in his (the official's) mind the shot went off in time."
Michigan State opened the second half with an 8-2 run, tying the game at 42-42 on a 3-pointer by Adam Ballinger with 15:41 left.
After a dunk by freshman Jerry Augustine off a pass by Brown, the Spartans took their first lead, 45-44, on a 3-pointer by freshman Maurice Ager with 14:28 remaining.
Cook picked up his fourth foul with 11:57 left and returned with just under five minutes left. He missed his last four shots.
There were five lead changes and two ties the rest of the way before Torbert's basket.