Spirited showdown: MSU turns back UM in OT

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Matt Costello celebrates with Bryn Forbes as MSU beats UM, 76-66, in overtime.

East Lansing — With the season potentially on the brink for both Michigan State and Michigan on Sunday, MSU junior Denzel Valentine was hanging his head as Michigan's players ran, fired up, to their bench.

Valentine had just missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw with the Spartans leading by two with 31 seconds left. Michigan answered with a tip-in by Max Bielfeldt to tie the game and go to overtime.

Valentine felt like he had just handed the game away.

"As soon as I missed it, I'm like 'No way,'" Valentine said. "I worked so hard on it."

That's when a line of Michigan State players — Matt Costello, Bryn Forbes and Lourawls Nairn — all told Valentine the same thing: "keep your head up."

It proved to be just the advice Valentine needed as he scored five of Michigan State's 10 points in the extra session as the Spartans blanked the Wolverines in overtime for a 76-66 victory at Breslin Center.

"Those are the types of moments you grow as a team," Valentine said. "I'm glad they did that."

It was a win both teams needed in a jumbled Big Ten race, and one Valentine was the catalyst for. Even after missing his first couple shots, the junior guard finished with a career-high 25 points — 19 in the second half — and seven rebounds and seven assists.

"I was really impressed by Valentine," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "Obviously, they have a lot of other good players on the team as well, but I thought he really stood out in that he was able to pick us apart with different things we did one-on-one, zones, everything. When you have a tall guy who can really see like that, and can shoot, it really makes your team really go.

"I didn't like his game, but I've got to respect his game a ton today. It made a big difference."

Branden Dawson added 19 points and 10 rebounds for his sixth double-double this season, while Forbes and Costello each scored 10 with Costello getting seven rebounds and four blocks.

It was the victory Michigan State (15-7, 6-3 Big Ten) needed, but it had coach Tom Izzo hoping for more.

"All-in-all, it was a win," he said. "We need to shore up some things. Yet we're 6-3 and tied for second in the league. That ain't all bad and by tonight, I'm watching somebody win the Super Bowl and I'll feel a whole lot better than I do now."

While Izzo might be feeling better, Michigan (13-9, 6-4) likely won't be. The lead changed hands 21 times during the game and the Wolverines led by eight at one point in the first half and by four with five minutes to play.

But with Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton out because of injuries, Michigan simply didn't have the weapons. Spike Albrecht and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman each scored 18 and Zak Irvin added 11 for the Wolverines.

"I like to think of it more as a really close overtime game instead of the disappointing way we played in overtime," Beilein said. "We'll grow from it. I talked a lot about how failure is a fertilizer for growth, so we had all kinds of sprinkles of fertilizer out there today."

There was plenty of growth from Valentine, who has had his share of struggled over the last few weeks. And when he saw his first shot pop in and out Sunday, he had a moment where he thought it'd be another long day.

But he righted himself quickly, and when the second half started, he took the game over.

"To have a big game like that especially the way I've been struggling," Valentine said. "I'm glad I did that. I've been working hard so I deserved it. I needed it, especially for my teammates. For them to see me struggle and me to get over it, especially the young guys, they need to see that. I've been working hard and I'm glad I had a good night like this."

It's a performance that has Michigan State right in the mix in of the volatile Big Ten race.

"It keeps us in the hunt," Trice said. "We lose today and we're on the outside looking in. Now we're kind of in the pack with everybody else. That's why it's big."

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

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