Valentine leads No. 2 Michigan St in 91-76 rout of Ohio St
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.
''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.
Izzo led Michigan State to its second national title in 2000. The juniors, including Charlie Bell and Andre Hutson, on that team went on to win a school-record 115 games over four years. That mark is within reach for the current seniors, who have 109 victories, with potentially three games in the Big Ten tournament and as many as six in the NCAA Tournament.
''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. Izzo checked them out late in the game and each kissed the Spartans' logo at center court, a tradition for seniors in their last game at the Breslin Center.
Izzo later got emotional during the postgame celebration, honoring the seniors and their families.
''The after-party was a reason to coach for another 10 years,'' he said.
Ohio State: Freshman Daniel Giddens lamented a reaction he had during the game. After Michigan State's Alvin Ellis made a 3-pointer and taunted the Buckeyes on the bench, Giddens responded by extending a finger on his right hand. ''I made a bad decision to gesture in reaction to a Michigan State player,'' Giddens said in a statement shared by a school spokesman. ''For that, I'm sorry.'' Matta discussed the incident with Giddens. ''We don't act that way at Ohio State and that is unacceptable,'' Matta said. ''That guy turned and said something at the bench, but we don't act that way, and it's something that he obviously regrets doing and we will take care of him when we get back.''
Michigan State: The Spartans were hosting highly touted guard, Josh Jackson, on his official visit. The Detroit native attends Prolific Prep Academy in California. Jackson watched the game with Miles Bridges and Cassius Winston, two of the four players who signed letters of intent last fall to play at Michigan State. Jackson stayed for the postgame ceremony and stood for it, as did much of the crowd, and was often smiling and clapping. NCAA rules prohibited Izzo from talking about Jackson, but the coach was asked how much the school's senior day celebration helps recruiting. ''If you weren't moved by that, I wouldn't want you,'' Izzo said.
Ohio State: Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.
Michigan State: Big Ten tournament quarterfinals in Indianapolis.
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