East Lansing, MI
The #2 Michigan State Spartans improved to 26-5 (13-5) with a 91-76 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes today. That is the crux of the story, as today was saying goodbye to not only one of the most successful senior classes in MSU history, but one of the best groups of young me.
Denzel Valentine had 27 points, 13 assists and four rebounds. Fellow senior Matt Costello had another double double with 15 points and 11 rebounds and Bryn Forbes had 14. Colby Wollenman the remaining senior got his first career start to round out the quartet.
It was an emotional Tom Izzo who said of this group, “Not sure about the game, but the after party was a reason to coach for another ten years. Unbelievable that never gets old. Our fans were amazing. We lost two games and they never left us. I was appreciative. I guess I am a blessed coach, a team that is unbelievable and the fans that stuck with us. It is great to be a Spartan right now. Hopefully we all appreciate what we got.”
On the game the Spartans shot 67% while the Buckeyes hit on 47%. MSU had 29 assists on 34 baskets and won the battle of the boards by a 34-24 margin. MSU led for over 36 minutes of the entire 40 minute affair.
Ohio State head coach Thad Matta told me afterward about the Spartans having more assists than his team did baskets, “I think that is something that separates them. They have a really good understanding of who is open and executing what they are doing. That is solid basketball right there in terms of what you are doing. Guys were open and they found them.”
I asked Izzo about Matta’s appreciation for the Spartans unselfish play. “I think he is right on the money. He has evaluated us well. 73% of our baskets are off passes. That does speak of this team. It speaks of the unselfishness of the team and the ability to make shots.”
This Spartan team has now tied the 1989-90 & 1998-99 teams for the most regular-season wins in program history with the aforementioned 26. Additionally this senior class of Valentine, Costello, Forbes & Wollenman is now tied with the 2010 senior class for the fourth-most wins for a class with 109.
The Spartans will play next on Friday at 6:30 at the B1G Tournament where they are the #2 seed. The Spartans are also projected to be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.