East Lansing — Denzel Valentine insists he’s not waiting for the anvil to fall on his head like he’s Wile E. Coyote.
And considering the way he has played the past few games, that’s a good thing for Michigan State.
In Thursday’s 85-70 victory over Northwestern, the sophomore was busy filling the stat sheet once again, scoring a career-high 16 points while handing out six assists and grabbing five rebounds.
“He did a lot of good things,” coach Tom Izzo said. “He is getting better and better. He played a complete game and I’m really happy for him. You wonder why early in the season we were on him so hard, it’s because we knew how much he had to give.”
It’s come to the forefront in recent weeks as many of his teammates have been out of the lineup at different times of the season for various injuries and illness. Through all of that, Valentine has been the constant.
“Talking about fresh legs, the only guy that doesn’t have fresh legs on my team should be Denzel Valentine,” Izzo said. “I mean the guy that should be deadest is the liveliest, and that’s Valentine.”
Valentine was in the starting lineup again Thursday, and aside from the sporadic minutes seen from freshman Gavin Schilling, he is the only Spartan to appear in every game.
Thursday’s game was the 20th time he’s started and he has relished an expanded role as the Spartans have been playing short-handed for virtually the entire Big Ten season. He has played nearly every position on the floor, and with Keith Appling now out with a sore wrist, he has spent more time running the point.
In a win over Penn State last week, his versatility was on display as he scored 11 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, handed out six assists, and had four steals.
“Obviously I have to do more with players being out and my role becoming bigger,” he said. “That’s just what I have to do. If I didn’t do those things we’re probably not in those ball games. I just have to step up to the plate more.”
Izzo said after the game he is still uncertain of the status of guard Keith Appling (wrist) and forward Branden Dawson (hand).
He did, however, say he hopes by the end of the month the Spartans will be back at full strength.
“I’m hoping within a week, Keith comes back,” Izzo said. “Is it out of the realm that he could come back Sunday? I’m not betting my house on it. You want to bet yours, go ahead. But I’m hoping for next week. I’m hoping that in the mid- or early-20s of this month we get Branden back. I’d be willing to say by the end of the month I’d feel comfortable he will be back.”
Appling has missed three straight games with a sore right wrist while Dawson has missed six games with a broken right hand.
He gets the pins out later next week, leaving open a small chance both could be ready to play Feb. 23 at Michigan.
Appling and sophomore guard Gary Harris have been named to the midseason watch list for the Naismith Trophy, given to the top player in the country.
… Adreian Paynerecorded his 15th career double-double, scoring 20 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.
… Registration is open for Michigan State’s boys basketball camp. The overnight camp is scheduled for June 15-18, while the day camp runs from June 22-25. Parents can register their children online at msuspartans.com/sportscamps. The overnight camp is $435 and the day camp is $320.