(CTN News) – The Illinois basketball team needed a win against Michigan State on Thursday night.
Although this might sound crazy, I believed the Illini had to win on Thursday night. In spite of our great record, losing back-to-back games a man down would have been embarrassing. We would have been knocked out of the AP Top 25 as well.
Our team finished strong, but Illinois basketball looked good out of the gate. There were some big games from some big-name Illinois players against Michigan State’s defense.
Even after Michigan State narrowed the margin to three points at the end of the first half, Illinois basketball held off the Spartans. In the second half, Michigan State led by six points before the Illini fought back to win, 71-68.
5 observations from Illinois basketball’ win over Michigan State
1. Hawkins looks like an All-American to me
Coleman Hawkins began the season so poorly, and I’ve rehashed it a thousand times. He was injured. He returned to the field with a new look after sitting out a few games.
Hawkins scored double digits for the seventh time in a row on Thursday against Michigan State. With this streak, he surpasses his previous high of four consecutive wins.
He finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, four blocks, two steals, and two assists. His field goal percentage was 4-of-9 and his three-point percentage was 3-of-5. One of his most impressive numbers was his two turnovers in 37 minutes.
We hadn’t seen Hawkins’ full potential since he joined the Illinois basketball program, but I knew he had talent. Yet, I feel like Hawkins is becoming an All-American right before our eyes.
Six-foot-10 monster has incredible scoring ability. When he steps out, he can knock down three-pointers right in your face. In five consecutive games, he has shot 40% or better from three-point range.
Hawkins’ defense is improving as well. He is learning how to block shots without fouling. He always had that bugaboo throughout his career.
Hawkins’ transformation has been incredible to watch. As he continues to develop, you can expect him to start creeping up NBA Draft boards soon.