Spartans end Buckeyes Big Ten tourney hopes
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — All Denzel Valentine wanted Friday night was a win at the Big Ten Tournament.
The glitzy numbers didn’t mean a thing.
After finishing with 19 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in an 81-54 blowout over Ohio State in the quarterfinals, the Big Ten player of the year explained what No. 2 Michigan State is really after — a record-tying fifth tourney crown, a No. 1 seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament, and, yes, the school’s third national championship.
“We didn’t accomplish one of our goals, to win the Big Ten championship outright, and we’re kind of mad about it,” Valentine said. “The seniors, me and Matt (Costello) never won a Big Ten championship outright, so we’re kind of mad right now and we’ve got something to play for.”
The motivated Spartans (27-5) are locked in, especially Valentine who could have had a rare triple double if coach Tom Izzo hadn’t put him on the bench for the final 5:28 of the game.
But Valentine knew he could use the rest and spent the rest of the game cheering for his teammates as they rolled to their 11th win in 12 games. Next up is No. 18 Maryland in Saturday’s second semifinal game.
And in a tournament that has been full of surprises, Valentine and the Big Ten regular-season runners-up look like the closest thing to a sure bet.
Valentine did his part in short, quick bursts Friday.
He scored 10 points in an early 13-3 run that allowed the Spartans to take a 10-point lead less than 6 1/2 minutes into the game. He made a 3-pointer in an 8-0 spurt to open the second half and did all the tidy little things later in a 10-4 run that helped extend the lead to 54-34 with 13:07 to play.
Michigan State pushed the lead to as much as 28 in the second half.
So, naturally, Valentine started looking at the bigger picture.
“Our goal when we got here was to win a national championship and we haven’t accomplished that yet,” Valentine said. “I think we have the perfect team to do it this year, and we’re really hungry to do that this year.”
Their defense looked ready, too.
JaQuan Lyle was the only Ohio State player to reach double figures. He finished with 10, and Michigan State converted 14 Ohio State turnovers into 21 points.
The Buckeyes (20-13) couldn’t get closer than 14 after Michigan State’s initial second-half flurry, and now all coach Thad Matta and his team can do is wait to see if they’ll even get a chance to play in next week’s NCAA Tournament.
“When you play a great team, every time you make a mistake, they make you pay,” Matta said.
THE INSIDE TRACK
Michigan State also dominated inside. It had a 40-29 rebounding advantage and outscored the Buckeyes 42-30 in the paint and 13-5 on second-chance points, thanks largely to 14-9 edge in offensive rebounds.
While it was a rough night by every measure for the Buckeyes, their most glaring problem was making 3s. Ohio State missed its first 10 shots from beyond the arc and finally ended the drought with Lyle’s shot with 74 seconds to go. Ohio State finished 1 of 11, while the Spartans were 8 of 23.
Ohio State and Michigan State played three times in 17 days and the outcome never changed. The Spartans won all three by double digits. In fact, Michigan State has dominated this series recently, winning five straight over the Buckeyes.
Buckeyes: Have played five games against teams that reached last year’s Final Four and are now 1-4. In addition to three losses to the Spartans, they also lost to Wisconsin. The lone win came against Kentucky in December. … The Buckeyes lost for only the fourth time in their last 19 Big Ten tourney games. … Marc Loving scored nine points and six rebounds.
Spartans: Are one win away from playing for their third consecutive Big Ten tourney title in Indianapolis. … Matt Costello had no blocks and remains tied with Adreian Payne for second on Michigan State’s career list with 141. Branden Dawson has the school record, 142. … The Spartans improved to 91-35 in March games since 1998-99.
Buckeyes: Will await postseason fate.
Spartans: Face either No. 18 Maryland or Nebraska in Saturday’s second semifinal.
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