East Lansing — It turns out Monday night wasn't as much about beating The Citadel as it was about getting past Texas Southern.
Michigan State took care of the most pressing item, beating The Citadel, 82-56, on Monday at Breslin Center behind a 26-0 run that spanned from late in the first half to midway through second. But that was only part of it.
Getting past the sting of Saturday's overtime loss to a team that had only one victory was just as big of a deal.
"When something happens like that it's unfortunate and sometimes we need a wakeup call," junior guard Denzel Valentine said. "We need to Coach Izzo to get on us and let us know what really just happened. I just want to say sorry to the fans for letting them down like that. We never have lost that game, flat out. We did and now we're 9-4 heading into the Big Ten season and we need to step it up."
It was a quick turnaround from the loss Saturday and the Spartans made the most of their time Sunday.
That included a 15-minute meeting with coach Tom Izzo and every player, film sessions, shooting drills and a walk-through of The Citadel game. And that was all before 1:30.
After Izzo left and returned from a recruiting trip, the team went through full practice from 7:45 to 9 p.m.
"It was pretty bad, but we needed it," Valentine said.
And it had the desired effect.
MSU coach sees improvement in Spartans' victory Monday.
With three minutes left in the first half on Monday, The Citadel had just taken the lead on a lob pass for a dunk and then grabbed an offensive rebound on the ensuing free throw from Quinton Marshall.
But instead of another sloppy play that led to an inexplicable loss, it sparked Michigan State as it scored the next 26 points. The run began with seven straight points to close the half and didn't end until Tim Broom hit one of two free throws for The Citadel with 13:07 left in the second half. By then, the Spartans led by 25 points and the outcome hardly seemed in doubt.
In fact, Michigan State scored 36 straight points in between field goals for The Citadel, which went 14:13 in between baskets. After the lob dunk by Marshall, the next basket came on a jumper from P.J. Horgan with 8:48 left in the second half. In between, the Bulldogs managed just a pair of free throws.
"You know, it's not in losing, it's what you do when you lose," Izzo said. "And I think we at least proved some things. It was a long day for me yesterday, it was a long day for them. And maybe I give us both a little higher grade than I gave us the other night. But the other night, when a team gets beat on the things that are in the scouting report, the coach didn't do a good enough job of getting it through. And I'll stick by that and I mean that."
Denzel Valentine, who played with a pair of protective goggles after scratching his cornea late in the Texas Southern game, scored 18 on 8-for-11 shooting to lead the Spartans. He also had six assists and six rebounds.
"On Sunday morning he wasn't playing in this game," Izzo said of Valentine's eye injury.
But some work from the training staff had him ready and Valentine said his vision was close to 100 percent by the time the game started.
He got plenty of help on Monday as Matt Costello added 13 points, Marvin Clark scored 12 and Gavin Schilling had 11. Travis Trice had a career-high 11 assists.
Horgan scored 19 for The Citadel (4-7) and Ashton Moore added 15.
"That's a great team we played," Citadel coach Chuck Driesell said. "They're going to be really good this year."
Michigan State will get a chance to prove that on Dec. 30 when it hosts Maryland to open Big Ten play. Until then, the Spartans will build off what transpired the last two days.
"I learned a lot," Izzo said. "They say you learn from wins, you learn from losses. Sometimes they are critical. This won't last with me. You're right, I am still talking about (the Texas Southern loss) because I'm still ticked off about it. I wanted to be one of the teams (an upset) didn't happen to. And it did. What I love about my team, though, is my staff responded, my trainers responded, my doctors responded, my team responded. Even though it wasn't the prettiest first half, who says we're supposed to blow out everybody. We're not that good. But I think we have a chance to get that good if we can put everything together."