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Updated: Tuesday, February 18, 2003 10:18 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(15) Illinois 70, Michigan St 40
MICHIGAN ST. SPARTANS
Michigan St. Spartans
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ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI
Illinois Fighting Illini
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CHAMPAIGN, Illinois (Ticker) -- Illinois did not let Michigan State add Assembly Hall to its list of conquered territory.

Freshman Dee Brown scored 24 points and keyed a dominant first-half run as the 15th-ranked Fighting Illini rolled to a 70-40 victory over the Spartans in a Big Ten Conference matchup.

Michigan State has the reputation of a dangerous road team, handing Illinois its only loss in 37 home games under coach Bill Self. The Spartans are the only team to post road wins against Indiana and Kentucky this season but struggled to stay with the Fighting Illini.

"I'm prejudiced, but this is probably the second-best environment in the league," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "I'm not sure how our freshmen handled that."

Freshman Erazem Lorbek buried two jumpers in the opening four minutes as Michigan State jumped out to an 8-2 lead. But Illinois (17-5, 7-4 Big Ten) responded with 18 consecutive points to take the lead for good.

Brown scored nine points, including the first four, and freshman Deron Williams added four during the burst. Brown capped it with a 3-pointer to give the Fighting Illini a 20-8 cushion with eight minutes remaining.

Michigan State (14-10, 6-6) was 0-for-4 from the floor as it went scoreless for eight minutes while Illinois took control.

Nick Smith scored seven of his nine points in the first half as the Fighting Illini took a 37-17 halftime advantage.

The Spartans never got closer than 18 in the second half as they shot just 31 percent (10-of-32), including 2-of-11 3-pointers, and made 1-of-6 free throws in the final 20 minutes.

"We played as well defensively as any team I've coached," Illinois coach Bill Self said. "Those guys tonight proved they could play with any team. Those guys played with unbelievable energy."

Illinois overcame a sub-par effort by leading scorer Brian Cook, who was held to four points on 1-of-4 shooting in 15 minutes. Cook picked up three fouls early and was forced to the bench.

"We didn't win without Brian, I would rather play with him," Self said. "What we did is step up and make plays without him."

Williams finished with 12 points and Roger Powell added 10 and seven rebounds for Illinois, which shot 54 percent (26-of-48), including 6-of-12 from 3-point range.

The Spartans were held scoreless for a stretch of over nine minutes in the second half The Illini employed multiple defenses in an effort to confuse their young opponents.

"Michigan State is a great - not a good - rhythm team," Self said. "We thought changing defenses would keep us out of foul trouble and keep them from getting comfortable running their sets."

Chris Hill scored 12 points and was the only player in double figures for the Spartans, who fell 1 1/2 games behind the Fighting Illini for fourth place in the Big Ten.


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