EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Kalin Lucas scored 25 points, lifting Michigan State to a 61-57 win over Illinois on Saturday night.
The Spartans (15-11, 7-7 Big Ten) have won two of three after losing five of six to bolster their shot at playing in a 14th straight NCAA tournament.
The Fighting Illini (17-10, 7-7) have lost three of five to make it more difficult to earn one of the coveted 68 spots in college basketball's showcase next month.
Michigan State scored nine straight points after the game was tied at 51 to pull away in a closely contested game that had postseason-like intensity.
Lucas didn't get much help offensively. Keith Appling scored nine points, Durrell Summers had all eight of his points in the first half and Delvon Roe added eight, including a low-post shot that put the Spartans ahead by four with 1 1/2 minutes left.
Colorado State graduate transfer John Gillon has chosen Syracuse, giving the Orange a potential starter at point guard entering the 2016-17 season.
DeSean Murray, who averaged 20.2 points as a sophomore at Presbyterian, will transfer to Auburn to play for coach Bruce Pearl.
Former Kentucky guard Ed Davender, the only Wildcat with at least 1,500 points and 400 assists, has died. He was 49.