Valentine, Spartans roll past Buckeyes

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 6, 2016

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Denzel Valentine and his fellow Michigan State seniors went out in style, routing Ohio State and compelling their coach to make a bold statement in public.

Valentine had 27 points and matched a career high with 13 assists in the last home game, helping the second-ranked Spartans beat the Buckeyes 91-76.

The Spartans (26-5, 13-5 Big Ten) have won 10 of their last 11 games, earning No. 2 seeding in the conference tournament.

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“We didn’t win the Big Ten championship, but we can win two more championships,” Valentine said.

“We’ve got nine more games. We’re not done.”

While coach Tom Izzo and his team will want to fare well in Indianapolis, they will be much more motivated to win the following tournament. And, Izzo likes the Spartans’ shot.

Izzo told fans at the Breslin Center he thought three of his previous seven Final Four teams entering those NCAA tournaments had a “legitimate chance,” to win it all.

“I’m putting my neck on the line,” he said. “This is my fourth.”
Izzo later told reporters the current Spartans compares to the championship-caliber teams he had 1999, 2000 and 2010.

“We’ll see in the next three, four weeks how good they are,” he said.

“Three wins for a Big Ten championship, but hopefully nine more,” Valentine said. “That’s what the goal is — nine more.”

The Buckeyes (19-12, 11-7) have lost just two of their last seven games, with both setbacks coming against Michigan State.

Does coach Thad Matta think his team has to win four games in Indianapolis to get in the NCAA tournament?

“I haven’t thought that far ahead,” he insisted.

Ohio State’s Marc Loving scored 21, JaQuan Lyle had 18 points and Kam Williams added 15.

Against a young team without a senior, Valentine and fellow seniors Matt Costello and Bryn Forbes led the way for the Spartans. Costello had 15 points and 11 rebounds while Forbes scored 14.

“It’s just kind of the way you want to go out,” Izzo said on senior day.

Forbes made only one 3-pointer on six attempts one game after setting a Big Ten record with 11 3-pointers.

After a relatively close start, Michigan State was dominant.

Valentine’s 3-pointer started a 10-1 run to give the Spartans a 31-22 lead and control of the game for good midway through the first half. He made a 3-pointer and set up Forbes for a shot from beyond the arc to put the Spartans ahead by 20 with 12-plus minutes left.

The comfortable cushion allowed Izzo to give each of his four seniors a moment to remember.