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Associated Press
Illinois’ Tracy Abrams dishes off against Michigan State’s Gavin Schilling, right, and Adreian Payne during the first half Saturday in East Lansing, Mich.
Big Ten

Illinois surprises No. 18 Spartans

– Tracy Abrams scored 12 points, leading Illinois to a 53-46 win over No. 18 Michigan State on Saturday.

The Fighting Illini (17-12, 6-10 Big Ten) have three straight victories for the first time since winning four in a row from Dec. 21 to Jan. 4. That successful stretch included a win over then-No. 23 Missouri.

The Spartans (22-7, 11-5) have dropped two straight and six of their last 10 games. They were full strength for the first time in nearly two months but simply weren’t good enough to beat a streaking team that seemed more inspired.

Branden Dawson returned from a broken hand and played for the first time since Jan. 21, when he helped Michigan State beat Indiana to improve to 18-1 overall and 7-0 in conference.

Michigan State’s Gary Harris had 19 points and didn’t get much help from his teammates.

The Spartans scored a season-low 46 points – five fewer than they had two weeks ago in a nine-point loss to Nebraska. They made 39 percent of their shots and had only one player with more than seven points.

Adreian Payne, who averages 16-plus points, had just four points. Freshman forward Gavin Schilling matched his career-high with seven points.

Illinois, meanwhile, had a trio of double-digit scorers and made nearly 48 percent of its shots. Malcom Hill and Rayvonte Rice each had 10 points.

The Illini took advantage of a call that went their way and enraged Michigan State coach Tom Izzo – and appeared to rattle his players.

Harris had a steal and a layup waved off because the officials decided a shot-clock violation happened before the turnover.

Instead of the basket pulling the Spartans within a point, its deficit stayed at three and quickly grew to six points.

The Illini won at Michigan State for the first time since March 3, 2006, and beat a ranked Big Ten team for the first time since Feb. 10, 2013, when they knocked off No. 18 Minnesota.

NEBRASKA 54, NORTHWESTERN 47: In Lincoln, Neb., Shavon Shields had 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead Nebraska, which took a 10-point lead with seven minutes left and held on

With the win, Nebraska (17-11, 9-7 Big Ten) is guaranteed a top-six finish and .500 conference record, both Big Ten firsts for the Huskers, now in their third season in the conference. Nebraska won nine conference games for the first time since 1998-99 and only the 10th time since World War II.

Northwestern (12-17, 5-11) has now lost six straight games, a streak that began with a 53-49 loss to Nebraska on Feb. 8.

Nebraska took the lead 3 1/2 minutes into the game and never trailed thereafter. Northwestern cut the lead to 31-30 on Drew Crawford’s 3-pointer with 11:46 remaining. A 3-point play by Shields triggered a 13-4 Nebraska run that made the score 44-34 with seven minutes left.

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