November 28, 2014

Smothering each opponent since suffering its lone loss, Michigan State will likely have its sights set on slowing down Marquette's long-distance marksman.

Denzel Valentine and the 20th-ranked Spartans will look to stifle Matt Carlino after he shot the Golden Eagles into Friday night's semifinal matchup in the Orlando Classic.

Michigan State (4-1) has won three games by 27-plus points since its 81-71 loss to No. 4 Duke in Indianapolis on Nov. 18. The Spartans let the Blue Devils shoot 54.0 percent from that game but have held their last three opponents to a combined 29.7 percent.

They held Rider to a 16-for-62 performance in Thursday's 77-45 first-round victory. The Spartans raced to a 32-11 halftime lead after Rider missed 25 of its first 29 shots. Valentine was a big contributor to the defense, playing "as well defensively as any guard I've had in a while," according to coach Tom Izzo.

He also scored a career-high 19 points, including 17 in the second half. Valentine, who was 5 of 8 from 3-point range after going 5 for 19 in his first four games, had never hit more than three from beyond the arc in 78 games.

"We did make a concerted effort second half ... we said we're going to go to you and be ready," Izzo said. "Give him credit, he did."

Bryn Forbes also contributed to Michigan State's 12-of-25 performance from deep, hitting two 3-pointers while scoring a season-high 15 points.

Branden Dawson, who didn't play in Monday's win over Santa Clara due to an illness, didn't start Thursday and was limited to three points on 1-of-4 shooting in a season-low 16 minutes.

Holding Carlino in check could be the key to advancing opposite No. 11 Kansas or Tennessee in Sunday's championship game.

He scored 38 points in Thursday's 72-70 win over Georgia Tech - six shy of the school record and the most by a Marquette player since Steve Novak scored 41 in a 94-79 win over then-No. 2 Connecticut on Jan. 3, 2006. It was the highest scoring performance in the nine-year history of the tournament, which was formerly known as the Old Spice Classic.

All eight of Carlino's baskets came on 14 attempts from beyond the arc, pushing his season percentage to 45.5. He also hit 14 of 16 free-throw attempts.

Juan Anderson, who entered as the team's leading scorer with 16.3 points per game, was the only other Marquette (3-2) player to hit more than thee field goals, going 4 of 6 for 12 points. The rest of the team shot a combined 8 for 23.

Michigan State let Duke go 7 of 14 from 3-point range, but its other four opponents were a combined 18 for 72. Rider hit 1 of 13 3-pointers Thursday.

The Spartans lead the all-time series 31-23 but these teams haven't met since a 61-49 Michigan State win in the first round of the 2007 NCAA tournament.

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