Valentine, defense impress as MSU wins opener
East Lansing — While Denzel Valentine flirted with a triple-double again, Michigan State was busy playing a stifling brand of defense in the season-opener against Florida Atlantic on Friday at the Breslin Center.
It was a solid night, all the same, for Valentine. The Spartans' senior scored 13 points while grabbing eight rebounds and handing out nine assists in No. 13 Michigan State's 82-55 victory.
Valentine recorded a triple-double in the first exhibition game against Northern Michigan and came close in the second against Ferris State.
He was aided on Friday by 15 points and seven rebounds from Matt Costello, while Bryn Forbes scored 12 points on 3-for-4 shooting from 3-point range.
Freshman Deyonta Davis scored 13 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had five blocks as Michigan State now turns its attention to No. 4 Kansas on Tuesday in the Champions Classic.
As for Friday's game, coach Tom Izzo was pleased overall, but thought his team played the score at times.
"I thought we were missing a sense of urgency, so I was a little bit disappointed," Izzo said. "Denzel had some big numbers but was just OK. We had enough work that we know we're nowhere near where we're gonna be, and yet there were enough bright spots, at times, that I think we showed we can be pretty good."
Davis joined Derrick Nix and Matt Steigenga as the only Spartan freshmen with a double-double in their debut.
"I was just coming out trying to show everybody what I got and that's what I did," Davis said.
C.J. Turman scored 15 for Florida Atlantic while Nick Rutherford and Jackson Trapp scored 10 points each. The Owls, coached by former Detroit Piston player and coach Michael Curry, shot just 34 percent (20-for-59) from the field and 5-for-20 from 3-point range.
"From a defensive standpoint, they have a ton of guys. We probably won't play a team disciplined enough to stay packed inside the 3-point line and be quick enough to take away the three," Curry said. "We, for the most part, are a pretty good 3-point shooting team but when there are bigger more athletic guys closing out, they tend to rush the shot more."
Michigan State's defense was solid in the opening half, holding Florida Atlantic to just 8-for-31 shooting from the field, including just 1-for-8 from 3-point range. The Spartans also dominated on the glass, grabbing 29 rebounds to just 12 for the Owls in the opening half and finishing with a 53-26 advantage.
"We really came out and emphasized that," Costello said of the defensive effort. "We're a pretty athletic team and are able to get up and down pretty quickly. So our main key was to get back as fast as we could and staying in our gaps. For a minute we let their bigs go crazy, but we'll be able to lock that down Tuesday."
Michigan State opened the game on a 22-6 run as Costello scored 11 first-half points while grabbing four rebounds.
Davis got his feet wet early, checking in after less than four minutes had ticked off the clock. His first basket came on the put-back of a missed Valentine free throw as he finished the opening half with nine points, seven rebounds and four blocks.
The first-half lead likely would have been higher but Michigan State turned the ball over eight times and made just four of its first eight free throws before closing the half 7-for-8. The Spartans finished with 13 turnovers and were 17-for-28 from the free throw line.
Izzo used crutches after undergoing arthroscopic surgery Tuesday on his left knee. It didn't stop him from getting off the bench on handful of occasions to bark at an official.
… Davis was joined by fellow freshmen Matt McQuaid and Kyle Ahrens in playing their first career games. Ahrens was a redshirt candidate, but Izzo said after talking about it with Ahrens and his parents, he decided to play him.