East Lansing — Michigan State is one of five unbeaten teams in Division I college basketball, though the Spartans flirted with that first loss on Tuesday.
That’s when No. 1 Michigan State rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit to knock off Oakland at The Palace and win its 13th straight and mark the best start in school history.
They needed a career-high 32 points from Bryn Forbes and 27 from Eron Harris as Denzel Valentine sat out after undergoing knee surgery on Monday morning. And it was Valentine who implored his team before the game to stand alone.
With so many top-ranked teams suffering upsets this season, he wanted the Spartans to be the exception.
“Zel’s comment was, ‘Let’s not be like everybody else,’ ” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said on Tuesday. “Everyone has been getting upset in the preseason. Some have lost to lesser teams — not that Oakland is — but games where you look and say, ‘What?’
“But that was one of our battle cries, to not be like everybody else.”
It didn’t look good in the first half for the Spartans, but the effort turned around in the second half and in overtime.
“I was very disappointed in the effort early,” Izzo said. “So we need to get back at it and have some practices like old times and get after somebody. That’s what we wanna do. Christmas has always been good to us, and we’ll get a chance to get after it a little bit harder and a little more often.”
Izzo also wanted his team to shift a trend it started last season when it finished 3-5 in overtime games, including losses at home to Texas Southern and Minnesota.
“When we were starting overtime I said, ‘Let’s not be like last year,’ ” Izzo said. “Let’s learn how to win an overtime game. So I think if you want to look at that game and if you want to got something out of it and grow from it, there were a lot of reasons to do that.”
The question now for the No. 1 Michigan State is when does the first loss come?
It might be sooner, considering Valentine might not be back until the second week of January. Michigan State plays at Iowa on Dec. 29 before heading to Minnesota on Jan. 2. The month of January also includes a trip to Wisconsin and a visit from No. 4 Maryland.
Before then, however, the Spartans will be focusing on getting better.
“We have a lot to learn,” senior center Matt Costello said. “(The best start) is awesome, but there is a lot of work to do. It’s a huge goal and we’ve accomplished one goal, but again, it matters in April.”
No. 1 recruit visits
Michigan State had in important visitor on Tuesday night at The Palace: Detroit native Josh Jackson.
The 6-foot-7 Jackson is the No. 1 recruit in the nation for 2016 and told Rico Beard of “The Ryan and Rico Show” on 105.1 FM that he has narrowed his list of schools to Michigan State and Arizona.
Jackson, who plays at Prolific Prep in Napa, Calif., hasn’t given a timetable for his announcement. Michigan State already has the No. 3-ranked class, according to 247sports.com. Forwards Miles Bridges and Nick Ward, along with guards Joshua Langford and Cassius Winston, make up Izzo’s best class.