Victory gives Michigan State Spartans at least share of Big 10 men's basketball title

From left, Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr.,Nick Ward and Xavier Tillman lift the Big Ten championship trophy following their Big 10 game against Illinois on Tuesday in East Lansing. (AP photo)

By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING — Miles Bridges grabbed the Big Ten trophy, lifted it and flashed an ear-to-ear grin.
Bridges scored 19 points, leading No. 2 Michigan State to an 81-61 win over Illinois on Tuesday night to seal a share of the Big Ten championship.
The Spartans (27-3, 15-2 Big Ten) have won 11 straight and can claim the conference title outright if they win at Wisconsin on Sunday.
Bridges turned down a chance to make millions in the NBA this season to be a college sophomore in part to chase championships.
“That’s why I came back,” he said. “Memories that will last a lifetime.”
It is clear, though, he’s not satisfied with a Big Ten title.
“We’re not done yet,” Bridges told the Breslin Center crowd.
Coach Tom Izzo, likewise, isn’t content with winning his eighth Big Ten title.
“It’s one of those years, I’m not satisfied with that one,” Izzo said.
The Fighting Illini (13-16, 3-13) were coming off a win over Nebraska and looked like they were building momentum, competing well enough to trail MSU by three points at the half.
State dashed their hopes of pulling off an upset by opening the second half with a 12-1 run to take control and went on to build 20-plus-point leads.
“They don’t have any weaknesses,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “I think they’re really capable of winning the whole thing.”
The cushion allowed Izzo to put his three seniors in and out of the game in the final minutes. That gave each of them an opportunity to kiss the school’s logo at midcourt and get an ovation from the crowd, following a tradition Shawn Respert started in 1995 during Izzo’s final season as Jud Heathcote’s assistant.
It was a feel-good night on a campus still reeling because of a crisis over how the school handled allegations against disgraced former sports doctor Larry Nassar. An ESPN report has also stirred Michigan State’s basketball and football programs by questioning how Izzo and Mark Dantonio have dealt with allegations against their players.