Men’s Basketball: Wildcats shredded by Denzel Valentine in loss to Spartans


Daniel Tian/Daily Senior Staffer

Bryant McIntosh (left) tries to defend Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine. The Spartan guard shredded the Wildcats in Thursday’s loss, shooting 5-of-7 from beyond the arc.

Ben Pope, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

The Wildcats did many things wrong Thursday.

They shot a woeful 12-of-58 from the field and 4-of-23 from 3-point range. They were dominated 42-33 on the boards and 30-9 in points off the bench. And they frequently lost track of Michigan State’s dangerous shooters.

But even if Northwestern (15-7, 3-6 Big Ten) had played a far better game, it may well have still lost to the No. 12 Spartans (18-4, 5-4) for one reason: Denzel Valentine.

Valentine, Michigan State’s NBA-bound senior guard, surpassed his already impressive 18.4 points-per-game average by dropping 19 points along with seven assists and six rebounds Thursday night. He thrashed the Cats’ unique matchup zone defense not by finding gaps in the coverage but by simply shooting over it.

NU managed to keep a defender on him for most of the game, but Valentine made shot after shot past the defender’s fingertips and into the twine.

When sophomore guard Bryant McIntosh pulled the hosts within 7 points midway through the first half, it was Valentine who delivered a responding blow with a 3-pointer. Minutes later, after seemingly taunting NU to guard him back near the midcourt line, he drained a shot from almost 40 feet as the shot clock wound down to extend the Spartans’ lead to 13.

Valentine’s halftime total of 14 points, would have tied McIntosh as NU’s leading scorer for the entire game.

“We were trying to deny him, but … you know, he’s really good,” coach Chris Collins said. “Inside of 10 seconds (on the shot clock), he’s going to go get it. I thought we allowed him to get it a little too easily (and) he made some huge end-of-shot-clock plays.”

By the time Valentine made his final shot of the night — a long jumper that put the visitors up 61-36 with 6:40 to play — there wasn’t reason to celebrate or even acknowledge the conversion. Perhaps disappointed it wasn’t a 3-pointer (a category in which he went 5-for-7 on the night), he simply fast-stepped back to play defense.

19 points isn’t close to extraordinary for Valentine. In fact, its tied for his lowest total over Michigan State’s past four games. His 63.6 percent shooting efficiency tied his best mark in that regard since November, but he committed six turnovers.

After the game, Spartans coach Tom Izzo called out Valentine for that lone negative and seemed altogether displeased with his star’s overall play. Izzo, however, did give Valentine and the rest of his team one compliment for their 31-point demolition.

“I’m learning more and more … if you make a shot, it takes away all evils,” Izzo said.

On Thursday, Valentine and the Spartans did just that. Northwestern did not.

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