Valentine, Forbes power MSU in exhibition finale
East Lansing — Michigan State closed its exhibition season by dominating on the scoreboard, but coach Tom Izzo is still expecting more from his team as it prepares for the regular season.
The 13th-ranked Spartans cruised past Ferris State, 93-57, on Monday at the Breslin Center, with the senior guards leading the way. Denzel Valentine flirted with his second straight triple-double, scoring 15 points while grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out seven assists; and Bryn Forbes got heated up in the second half and finished with 16 points on another solid shooting night, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range.
Gavin Schilling added 12 points and five rebounds for the Spartans, while Matt McQuaid scored nine and handed out eight assists without a turnover.
Josh Fleming scored 15 points to lead Ferris State. Drew Cushingberry and Noah King scored nine points apiece.
Considering the 10 3-pointers Ferris State hit, however, Izzo was more concerned with his team’s defense.
“I liked the way Ferris played and it was a good game for us,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “But I told you that the one negative with this team is we have shooters and what are shooters notorious for? Not guarding anybody. They lived up to that tonight, we just did not guard.
“I thought Schilling was really good and Matt McQuaid played very well. But we didn’t play with energy and that is part of the culture change I’m trying to do. Let’s make every game where we’re going to play it and not play the team. We failed at that a little bit tonight. … There were a few bright spots but guarding, guarding, guarding is gonna have to change if we’re gonna be any good.”
How that will all come together over the next few days heading into the season opener on Friday against Florida Atlantic remains to be seen. Izzo tinkered a bit with his starting lineup, going with Valentine, Matt Costello and Tum Tum Nairn, who each started against Northern Michigan. On Monday, he inserted guard Eron Harris and forward Colby Wollenman as starters instead of Forbes and Javon Bess.
Forbes and Bess joined the second unit along with McQuaid, Kyle Ahrens and Schilling. Deyonta Davis checked in a couple of minutes later but lasted less than a minute, picking up two quick fouls.
“There will be some moves and the playing groups are going to shrink a little bit determined by the player,” Izzo said. “We’re going to start homing in now on our playing group a bit more.”
The rotation changes on Monday led to a quick start for the Spartans, who raced out to a 42-23 lead at halftime, forcing eight Ferris State turnovers and holding the Bulldogs to 9-for-27 shooting.
Michigan State had 13 assists on 16 made baskets as Schilling had 10 points and five rebounds. The Spartans ended the game with 28 assists on 35 field goals
The Bulldogs heated up in the second half to make a game of it, going 6-for-9 from 3-point range early in the half and cutting the Michigan State lead to 62-50.
Michigan State was able to push back the Ferris State surge as Valentine answered with his own triple to spark a 31-7 run to close the game.
It was a frustrating game for Davis, who fouled out with less than four minutes to play. He scored five and grabbed a pair of rebounds in just six minutes of action. And Schilling left the game with 10:37 to play after hurting his toe.
He said he will have an X-ray on Tuesday morning to rule out anything serious.
With the exhibition season complete, Michigan State now looks toward hosting Florida Atlantic on Friday, its last tuneup before facing No. 4 Kansas on Nov. 17 in the Champions Classic in Chicago.
Izzo hopes to see his team rounding into shape by then.
“I’m expecting more out of this team,” Izzo said. “I think we have enough veterans and we have senior leadership and they should expect more. It’s a long season and I’m not trying to win (it all) in November, but I am trying to instill a way of playing where we get a little hungrier and get a lead and learn to step on somebody’s throat instead of let them off the hook.”