CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Michigan State women's basketball team picked up a gritty Big Ten road win on Sunday, topping Illinois 79-75 in Assembly Hall. The Spartans, who improve to 14-2 overall and 2-1 in Big Ten play, used a 13-0 second half run to edge the recently hot Fighting Illini.
Four Spartans scored in double figures, led by 18 points apiece from junior Klarissa Bell and sophomore Jasmine Hines. Hines also added a game- and career-high 13 rebounds for her first career double-double in only 22 minutes. Senior Courtney Schiffauer posted her third career double-double, all this season, with 11 points and a career-high tying 11 rebounds, while sophomore Becca Mills added 10 points, all in the first half. Sophomore Kiana Johnson led the team with four assists and a season-high four steals off the bench.
Michigan State opened with the first eight points of the game and would eventually go ahead 13 points (26-to-13) with 8:27 left until halftime. Illinois slowly cut into the deficit and would tie the game at 36 with 1:18 on the clock. Two free throws from senior Jasmine Thomas and a floater from Johnson as time expired gave MSU a 40-36 halftime lead.
The Spartans remained ahead in the early minutes of the second half, but could not extend the lead past seven. With MSU leading 54-47 and 12:15 left, Illinois ran off nine unanswered points to take its first lead of the day. However, the Spartans quickly answered with 13 consecutive points of their own over a four minute span to go back up 11 (67-to-56). Illinois would get within four on a couple occasions in the final minutes, but no closer as Thomas and Bell each hit two free throws in the final 32 second to seal the win.
Michigan State controlled the boards, 49-22, including 21 offensive rebounds. It was MSU's largest rebound margin since Nov. 12, 2011 against North Carolina A&T (+36), and its largest margin in a Big Ten game since Feb. 3, 2005 vs. Northwestern (+28).
Illinois fell to 9-7 overall and 2-2 in the league, but had recently beat two top-25 teams in the last two weeks.
The Spartans return to action on Thursday, hosting Iowa at 6 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.