East Lansing — Michigan State didn’t get a triple-double from Denzel Valentine on this night, but he sure was close in MSU’s 92-46 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Friday.
It appears full stat sheets will be a theme for Valentine — who finished with seven points, seven rebounds and 11 assists — but it was the team around him who used separate 21-3 and 14-0 runs in the first half to gain an insurmountable lead as they dominated the Golden Lions from the get-go.
Thirteen other Spartans saw action in addition to Valentine, including Matt Costello, who finished the game with 10 points and 10 rebounds, good for his first double-double of the season and the fourth of his career.
“I was happy getting it (the double-double),” Costello said. “I really was happy with our team. We came out firing on all cylinders and played really good defense.”
Tom Izzo enjoyed the production out of his big tonight, as well, despite the fact that he didn’t even play half of the game.
“I did expect it from him but I don’t want to underscore the fact in 19 minutes to get 10 and 10 is pretty good,” Izzo said. “I thought Matt played with a purpose, rebounded very well … he played well, I thought that was a bright spot of the night.”
Javon Bess led all Spartan scorers with a career-high 16 points on an efficient 6-of-7 shooting on what is probably the best game of his young career.
“I felt good, I just tried to be more aggressive in that zone ... and tried to be aggressive with the ball,” Bess said. “It feels good, I just need to keep being aggressive every game.”
There were questions about how MSU would respond coming off of a high-energy game against No. 4 Kansas in Chicago just three nights previous, but the Spartans were clean from the jump, shooting 57.9 percent.
A large part of MSU’s offensive efficiency had to do with its ball movement, which was crisp all night, as they assisted on 26 of their 33 baskets.
Rebounding has been one of the early themes of the year, despite it being one of the weaknesses Izzo addressed entering the season.
After outrebounding a large team in the Jayhawks on Tuesday, MSU held a 45-14 edge on the glass on Friday night against an undersized Golden Lion squad, led by Costello’s team-high 10.
Two of those rebounds were grabbed by Marvin Clark Jr. — whom Izzo said he didn’t expect to play until sometime next week — who saw his first action of the season.
“We got Marv a few minutes, just wanted to get his feet wet,” Izzo said. “He probably could have played a few more but it was a way to get him ready and hopefully by next week he’ll be playing more and more.”
Clark played just five minutes, but finished with two points and two rebounds.
If there was a weak point on the day for the Spartans it came from a familiar problem spot — the free throw line. The Spartans were just 17-of-26 when there was hope they had started some momentum there after a 14-for-16 performance earlier in the week.
While MSU dominated the whole way, it wasn’t without effort from junior Giovanni Robinson. Robinson led the all scorers with 24 points, 12 of which came from the long line, as he had his best game of the young season.
Tony Garcia is a freelance writer.