Denzel Valentine guides No. 8 Michigan State past Wisconsin

By Dana Gauruder, The Sports Xchange  |  Feb. 19, 2016 at 12:44 AM
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EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Denzel Valentine's bid for National Player of the Year got a boost against the team that last season's honoree.

Michigan State's senior point guard enjoyed another dominant game with 24 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists, and No. 8 Michigan State halted Wisconsin's seven-game winning streak with an emphatic 69-57 victory Thursday night at the Breslin Center.

Valentine notched his 15th career double-double and came up three rebounds shy of his third triple-double. Valentine, who reached the 1,500-point mark for his career in the late going, has scored at least 20 points in each of his past five games.

He set the tone early, and the Spartans never trailed.

"I was just trying to control the game and play at my pace," he said. "Just take what's there and try to get the best shot we can."

Behind Valentine's floor leadership, the Spartans are averaging a nation-high 20.7 assists. He had half of Michigan State's 20 assists Thursday (on 26 field goals).

"It's been this way all year," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "It's been 27, 28 games where they average more assists than any team we've had. That's incredible. That speaks volumes for Denzel because he leads the way with his unselfish play."

The Badgers reached the NCAA championship game last season behind unanimous Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky, who now plies his trade for the Charlotte Hornets. Valentine gives the conference a chance to win the award in back-to-back seasons.

"He can do so many things. His shooting has improved and his ballhandling has improved," Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. "I don't think he was a point guard four years ago when he came in here, and he's really evolved. He has an impact on the team, a lot like Kaminsky had with us last year. Frank made so many guys better with the ball in his hands, making plays, and Denzel can do a lot of the same things."

Senior shooting guard Bryn Forbes contributed 17 points and junior guard Eron Harris added 10 points for the Spartans, who won for the sixth time in seven games.

Michigan State freshman power forward Deyonta Davis supplied six points, nine rebounds and three blocks. The Spartans (22-5, 9-5 Big Ten) were coming off a 19-point home win over Indiana on Sunday.

Redshirt freshman center Ethan Happ's 18 points led the Badgers, who trailed by double digits most of the way after collecting a victory at then-No. 2 Maryland on Saturday.

Junior forward Nigel Hayes, the Badgers' leading scorer at 17.1 points per game, was limited to five points on 1-for-13 shooting. Davis guarded him a majority of the way.

"He took that as a challenge," Valentine said. "Deyonta used his length and he knew his scouting report, which he has a bad habit of (not doing). This game was important to him."

Junior point guard Bronson Koenig, who had a career-high 27 points in the Badgers' 77-76 win over the Spartans on Jan. 17, scored 12 points Thursday.

Wisconsin (16-10, 8-5) shot 20-for-59, 33.9 percent, from the field.

"You know you're always going to have a thrust from them, especially here, and we needed to stem that off by finishing in the paint," Gard said. "That's where we really dug ourselves a hole early, by not finishing inside."

Michigan State's nine-point halftime lead grew to 13 when Valentine found senior center Matt Costello cutting to the basket for a dunk. Forbes followed with a three-point play, and the Badgers struggled to make up ground with Hayes blanketed by the 6-foot-10 Davis.

Valentine's layup with eight minutes remaining gave Michigan State a 55-37 lead. Valentine tacked on a couple of free throws a minute later to bump the lead to 20.

The Spartans led by as much as 16 in the first half but the Badgers closed with a 7-0 spurt to cut their deficit to 32-23 at halftime.

NOTES: Spartans redshirt freshman PF Kenny Goins sat out with a left knee injury he sustained against Indiana on Sunday. He is expected to miss two to four weeks. ... The Badgers fell to 4-4 against ranked opponents this season and 10-8 against Top 10 opponents since the 2012-13 season. ... Michigan State improved to 19-0 when holding the opponent under 70 points. Wisconsin has won its past 32 games when scoring at least 70 points. ... At least one of the teams has been ranked in 29 of the last 30 meetings. ... Wisconsin F Nigel Hayes collected his 500th career rebound in the first half. ... The Badgers held the Spartans to an average of 60.6 points over the past 20 meetings.

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