Michigan State senior forward Draymond Green can score. Just ask Gonzaga. He put up 34 on the Zags in a Spartans win. But Green can also do the other things.
CHAMPAIGN -- Michigan State senior forward Draymond Green can score.
Just ask Gonzaga. He put up 34 on the Zags in a Spartans win. But Green can also do the other things.
For example, Green had only eight points against Purdue, but he finished with 12 rebounds and seven assists in a victory over the Boilermakers.
"Not to give him too much credit, but it's been an MVP season for him,'' said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. "Most valuable player means what would the team be like without him. I'm not sure we'd be even close to the same team.''
When Illinois hosts No. 9 Michigan State on Tuesday with the gloom of a three-game losing streak hanging over Assembly Hall, the player to watch is Green, the 6-foot-7, 230-pounder from Saginaw, Mich., who is a do-it-all senior.
The reigning Big Ten player of the week, Green posted 22 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in a 16-point win over Minnesota last week. Green has the big body that's tough to handle, mobility to create and enough skill to hurt you. He's also got a feel for the game that's hard to coach.
Sometimes, a guy just has it.
"They have one of the best players in the Big Ten, one of my favorite players in the country,'' Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "I'm not sure exactly what he is. He's a point guard, a forward and a center. He's everything. He's a tough matchup.''
Green averages 15.3 points, leads the league with 10.4 rebounds and dishes out 3.7 assists per game; he also has a league-leading 11 double-doubles. He's listed in the top 10 in seven Big Ten categories. That's not even talking about Green's leadership.
"His will to win, his leadership, and he's a coach on the floor,'' Weber said. "You watch him direct everything. To me, his greatest attributes are his understanding of the game, heart and leadership.''
The Illini have a decision on who starts on Green, even though it would appear guard Brandon Paul is the likely candidate.
"He's going to get his points,'' Weber said. "You can't let him have a triple-double where get gets involved in scoring, rebounding and assists.''
Green has two triple-doubles in his Michigan State career.
Otherwise, the Illini face the challenge of bouncing back from a 77-72 overtime loss at Minnesota, when center Meyers Leonard's foul with 4 seconds left allowed the Gophers a three-point play to force overtime. The heartbreaker could be deflating or a rallying point.
"The guys did what they had to do to win the game,'' Weber said. "We just didn't win the game. We talked about our attitude being right, having the toughness. We had all those things against Minnesota. We didn't get repaid with a victory.
"Life isn't always fair. You have to believe in yourself and believe in what you do. In the long run, life will treat you fair.''
Two other keys, besides the defense on Green:
-- The Illini had more turnovers than assists in four of the last five games. Paul lost 19 turnovers in the previous four games.
-- Illinois ranks eighth in Big Ten play in 3-point shooting. The Illini were 3 of 21 at Minnesota. Since a sprained wrist suffered at Northwestern, guard D.J. Richardson is 8 of 26 from the 3-point line (and 6 of 18 inside the arc). Paul is 5 of 19 since making 8 of 10 3-pointers against Ohio State.
Point guard Sam Maniscalco is 0 of 9 from three in his previous four games.
"We've hit a rough patch,'' Paul said. "We have to keep fighting to get through it. It's going to show us what kind of team we are. Are we going to lay down or fight and get better.''
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSupinie.
Illinois (15-6, 4-4) vs. No. 9 Michigan State (17-4, 6-2)
6 p.m., Assembly Hall, Champaign (ESPN, Illini Sports Network)
ILLINOIS (15-6, 4-4) ppg rpg
F Joe Bertrand 6-5 So. 7.0 2.5
C Meyers Leonard 7-1 So. 13.4 8.0
G Brandon Paul 6-4 Jr. 14.6 5.0
G D.J. Richardson 6-3 Jr. 12.5 2.9
G Tracy Abrams 6-1 Fr. 2.7 2.4
MICHIGAN STATE (17-4, 6-2) ppg rpg
F Draymond Green 6-7 Sr. 15.3 10.4
C Adreian Payne 6-10 So. 6.9 4.1
G Branden Dawson 6-6 Fr. 8.6 4.2
G Brandon Wood 6-2 Sr. 9.2 2.7
G Keith Appling 6-2 So. 12.3 3.3
Noteworthy: Michigan State has won eight of the previous 11 games between the two teams, but Illinois took the last two home games against the Spartans. ... Illinois will wear its blue road uniforms in Operation Blue-Out. Fans are asked to buy blue T-shirts for sale at the Hall and GameDay sports. Proceeds go to Coaches vs. Cancer. ... Illinois' last six games have been decided by five points or less. The Illini are 3-3 in the span. ... About 1,200 tickets were still available Monday afternoon.
Key for Illini: Cut down on the turnovers and improve shot selection.
Key for Spartans: Force Illinois to figure out how to defend Green.
Key quote: "I've got to be hard on them today. Michigan State doesn't care we lost. Nobody cares. It's a loss. You've got to come back and play.'' -- Illinois coach Bruce Weber, on the team's mood heading toward the practice court Monday.
Prediction: Illinois 68, Michigan State 67