BIG TEN CONFERENCE ROUNDUP : Reluctant Freshman Gives Michigan State Title

From Associated Press

A shot Dwayne Stephens didn't want to take proved to be the biggest basket of the season for Michigan State.

The seventh-ranked Spartans won their first outright Big Ten championship since 1978 Sunday at East Lansing, Mich., beating Purdue, 72-70, when Stephens came up with a steal and a basket with 20 seconds left.

"We were told to foul, but the ball popped loose and it was in my hands," said Stephens, a 6-foot-7 freshman forward. "I never thought I'd be the one to take the shot. At first, I didn't want to take the shot.

"I didn't want the burden on me. If I'd have missed, I'd still be crying."

Michigan State Coach Jud Heathcote said Stephens wouldn't have been his first choice, either, but he was clearly pleased with the outcome.

Michigan State (26-5, 15-3) shared the conference title in 1979, when Magic Johnson led the Spartans to the NCAA championship.

The No. 10 Boilermakers (21-7, 13-5), who lost twice to the Spartans this season, needed a victory to share the Big Ten title.

Purdue led, 70-67, with 50 seconds left on two free throws by Tony Jones.

Michigan State's Kirk Manns, who missed the previous three games with a stress fracture in his right foot, made a jump shot with 34 seconds left.

Stephens then stole the ball from Jones at the Spartans' end of the court, spun to the basket and scored on a layup, putting Michigan State ahead, 71-70.

No. 20 Illinois 69, Indiana 63--Kendall Gill scored 23 points to help the Fighting Illini give Coach Lou Henson a school record-tying 316th victory by holding off the Hoosiers' second-half rally at Bloomington, Ind.

Illinois (21-7, 11-7) worked the clock to just over a minute to go before Gill made a basket. Then, after Calbert Cheaney missed a three-point shot with 41 seconds left, Marcus Liberty scored to put the game out of reach. Gill added two free throws with six seconds remaining before Cheaney scored.

The victory for Henson, in his 15th season, tied the coaching record set by Harry Combes from 1948-67.

Indiana (18-10, 8-10) was led by Cheaney with 21. Eric Anderson, who missed his first start of the season because of a sprained ankle he suffered Thursday, added 14 points.

At Indiana Coach Bob Knight's traditional postgame ceremony marking the final home game of the season, he remarked over the public address microphone how proud he was of Indiana's seniors and that the school has not been the subject of NCAA scrutiny, a reference to a current investigation of Illinois. The few Illinois fans among the 17,228 in Assembly Hall began chanting, "Cheap shot. Cheap shot."

Said Knight: "If you don't like it, go back to Illinois."

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