Fullerton, Calif. — Tom Izzo has been expecting it. He knows opponents, no matter how big or small, will be gunning for Michigan State, given its lofty No. 3 ranking.
And Michigan State got all it could handle from Boise State before Denzel Valentine put the Spartans on his back with four consecutive 3-pointers en route to a 77-67 victory Friday at the Wooden Legacy tournament at Cal-State Fullerton.
Valentine, fresh off his triple-double Thursday, finished with a career-high 32 points.
“We said we would go to him. We said in a timeout, we talked about what side he wanted to come off,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “That’s what he can do when he gets in a zone.”
Third-ranked MSU (6-0) advances to Sunday’s championship game, set for 10 p.m. (Eastern) at the Honda Center in Anaheim, where it will play the winner of Friday night’s Arizona-Providence game.
Boise State (3-3) cut its deficit to one at 14:17 of the second half on a 3-pointer that so disgusted Michigan State assistant coach Dane Fife that he fired his notes nearly to the paint — and had to race to retrieve them before the Spartans’ offense arrived.
From there, though, Valentine absolutely took over, finding just enough space to get his threes off — and draining four in a row in less than two minutes. After his third, Boise State called a timeout, and MSU’s reserves leaped onto the floor in celebration.
The crowd of about 4,000, probably 90 percent or more wearing green and white, went wild.
Then, off the timeout, Valentine made his fourth in a row.
“Once I saw the first one drop,” said Valentine, “I just got this adrenaline and I just felt like every shot I was gonna take was gonna be good.”
The streak ended when Valentine was fouled on a 3-pointer. No matter, he sank all three free throws to give MSU its biggest lead of the game to that point, 58-46.
It’s the second time he’s set his career high this season, after scoring 29 against Kansas earlier this month and scoring 29 again Thursday against Boston College.
“We were waiting for him to miss, I guess,” Boise State’s Nick Franklin said. “In the end, he didn’t.”
For triple-double watch purposes, Valentine had nine rebounds and six assists. That assist number would’ve been up had some Spartans big men not made a mess of things in the paint early on.
Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. had another good game, finishing with nine points, including another 3-pointer as he continues to gain confidence shooting from long-range. Nairn also assisted on the four consecutive Valentine threes, and had seven assists for the game.
“He got me going, really,” Valentine said. “He was the one that was talking to me the whole time, in my ear.
“Credit to him, because he led us throughout the game and got me going.”
Deyonta Davis scored 12 on 6-of-7 shooting and added a crowd-pleasing block for the Spartans.
Nick Duncan, Boise State’s 6-foot-8, 260-pound junior forward who actually can shoot inside and out, finished with a team-high 19 points.
Michigan State trailed by as many as seven points in the opening half, as the Spartans missed several shots from close range. But as the half wore on, their speed got the best of the Broncos, who trailed 33-28 at the half. It could’ve been worse, but MSU allowed a late 3-pointer that had Izzo and Nairn fuming as they headed off the court.
MSU closed the half on a 17-4 run, which was triggered by Nairn’s three, followed by a transition layup by Nairn.
Redshirt freshman forward Kenny Goins saw his most minutes of the season, and responded with some good defense, including four rebounds. Javon Bess added nine rebounds.
“They made some big, big shots,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “They just kept at arm’s length.
“They’re No. 3 for a reason.”