Michigan State gets emotional win against Ohio State

By Dana Gauruder, The Sports Xchange  |  March 6, 2016 at 12:28 AM
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EAST LANSING, Mich. -- One by one, Michigan State's seniors kissed the center court logo at Breslin Center during the closing seconds of their last home game.

Denzel Valentine finally got his turn, then embraced head coach Tom Izzo after another special performance.

Valentine strengthened his case for the National Player of the Year award with a dominating regular-season finish. He had 27 points and a career-high tying 13 assists as No. 2 Michigan State stormed into the postseason on a six-game winning streak by overwhelming Ohio State 91-76 on Saturday at the Breslin Center.

"It was everything I expected and more," the senior point guard said.

Valentine's 16th career double-double allowed the Spartans (26-5, 13-5 in the Big Ten) to match their school record for regular-season victories.

Michigan State's 1989-90 and 1998-99 teams also won 26 games.

The Spartans, who have won 10 of its last 11 games, clinched the No. 2 seed and a double bye in the Big Ten tournament at Indianapolis.

"I'm ready; I love tournament time," Valentine said. "I love March. Been loving it ever since high school. It brings out the best in you. You basically can't sleep this month, you're just so excited. I'm very excited for the future and hopefully, we've got nine more games and we'll get two championships."

With Valentine running the show, anything is possible for these Spartans. They shot a season-high 66.7 percent against Ohio State.

"He's just made himself better in every aspect," Izzo said. "I don't know of many guys that have improved in every aspect of the game like he has.

"I love another contender or two out there but prejudicially, I'll say that he's the Player of the Year. It's unfair because I don't know what a couple of other guys have done, but I know what he's done, and he's done it at a high level."

Matt Costello supplied 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Bryn Forbes, who set a Big Ten record with 11 3-pointers at Rutgers on Wednesday, added 14 points despite going 1-for-6 beyond the arc.

Marc Loving's 21 points led the Buckeyes (19-12, 11-7), who had won five of their last six games. JaQuan Lyle added 18 points and sixth man Kam Williams chipped in 15.

"We were fixated on one thing defensively too much," said Ohio State coach Thad Matta, whose team might need a win or two in the Big Ten tournament to receive an NCAA bid. "We needed to see two things going on.

"Rotation-wise, we weren't where we needed to be. We didn't have the pressure on the basketball that we needed to disrupt them. We did a better job in the second half but they sort of picked what they wanted and got it on us."

The Buckeyes kept it close in the early going by hitting six first-half 3-pointers, but the Spartans gradually pulled away to take a 47-37 lead.

Valentine gave the Spartans the lead for keeps with a 3-pointer to make it 24-21. Michigan State got 19 points from its bench by halftime, including Marvin Clark's layup to push the lead to 37-28.

Valentine provided the first double-digit advantage with a runner in the lane. Lyle's four-point play in the final minute closed the gap to eight before Costello finished the first-half scoring with two free throws.

The Spartans took total control with a 9-0 second-half spurt for a 67-47 lead. All the points came on 3-pointers, with Valentine making one and assisting on the others.

Freshman guard Matt McQuaid hit the first one and Forbes finally broke through with his first of the game after missing his first four long-distance attempts.

"They just made big shot after big shot after big shot," Matta said. "They were rolling for 40 minutes. We kept saying if we can get three consecutive stops, we can crack into this thing.

"But it wasn't meant to be because they did not miss."

NOTES: Michigan State PF Colby Wollenman made his first career start in Senior Day. ... Spartans senior PG Denzel Valentine is on pace to become the first player since assists became an official NCAA statistic in 1983-84 to average 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. ... The last four meetings between the teams were decided by four points or fewer and 12 of the last 13 were decided by 10 or fewer points. ... Michigan State is 23-0 when leading at halftime. ... Despite the loss, Ohio State has won at least 10 Big Ten regular-season games for a school-record 11 consecutive seasons. ... The Buckeyes have faced the third-most ranked opponents (119) nationally since Thad Matta became head coach in 2005.

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