Others step up as No. 5 MSU rolls in Valentine’s return

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Bryn Forbes scored 20 first-half points for Michigan State on Sunday.

University Park, Pa. — Michigan State got Denzel Valentine back on Sunday, and in the process learned the senior guard’s absence might have been a blessing in disguise.

No team wants a player that had recorded two triple-doubles and was in the thick of the national player of the year race to miss four games, but in the process, the Spartans realized the weapons they have aside from Valentine are pretty good, too.

Those were on full display Sunday as No. 5 Michigan State rolled over Penn State, 92-65, at the Bryce Jordan Center.

BOX SCORE: No. 5 Michigan State 92, Penn State 65

Bryn Forbes scored 20 points — all coming in the first half — on 7-for-10 shooting from the field, including 6-for-8 from 3-point range. Eron Harris added 13 points while Gavin Schilling chipped in 13 points, grabbed seven rebounds and played solid defense on Penn State’s Brandon Taylor.

It allowed Michigan State (16-1, 3-1 Big Ten) to come out of its four-game stretch without its best player in pretty good shape with Iowa coming to town Thursday.

“To win three of the four with him out,” coach Tom Izzo said, “he’s just one of those guys that does so many things. It was maybe as good as can happen that we won three out of four and we got some guys going a little of bit that wouldn’t have been in the same boat. Harris gets 13 and since (Valentine) has been out he’s averaging 16 and I think Forbes is averaging 16 or 17. Now if we can get 'Zel back up there in addition to some guys inside we can keep scoring a lot of points.”

They got plenty of points to take care of Penn State, which kept the game close early but couldn’t avoid getting blown out in the second half.

“We tried for three-and-a-half days to get an understanding (of Michigan State),” Penn State coach Pat Chambers said. “And being here five years, I have a very good understanding of what Coach Izzo likes to do and it still doesn’t matter. It’s like Vince Lombardi saying, ‘We’re gonna sweep right, try to stop it. It doesn’t matter, we’re sweeping right.’

“You’re not stopping them because they have so many weapons and everybody has bought into their role and that makes it more difficult. If you do a good job and you do take the first and second option away, they don’t care. They know exactly what the third and fourth and fifth options are going to be and they go to it. And they are comfortable doing it and they do it well.”

Shep Garner was Penn State’s most effective weapon, scoring 19 points. Sophomore forward Julian Moore added 13, senior guard Devin Foster 12 and Taylor 10.

“I like this Penn State team, I know they’re young in some spots,” Izzo said. “It was just one of those games where Forbes caught on fire early. And I thought our execution was really good early and that got us some big baskets that got us going.”

It took some time for things to get going as Valentine eased his way back into the rotation and scored 10 points — all in the second half — while adding four rebounds and four assists.

The Spartans hit only three of their first 14 shots from the field but started to heat up from there. Forbes missed his first three shots but was perfect for the rest of the first half while Schilling was effective in the post.

Just having Valentine on the court made a big difference.

After slow start, Valentine picks up where he left off

“The defense has got to pay attention to him,” Forbes said. “He’s a candidate for national player of the year, so if he’s on the court it changes everything. That makes it an easier game for everyone.”

It was easier for Michigan State, to be sure, but not so much for Penn State.

The Nittany Lions shot just 3-for-14 from 3-point range and turned the ball over 13 times, leading to 24 Michigan State points.

“We’re going to be on a roller coaster this year,” Chambers said of his young team. “But we’ve just got to stay together.”

Michigan State now prepares to face Iowa, the only team it has lost to, at home on Thursday. Having its best player back certainly helps.

“I think this was a big step in the right direction,” Izzo said. “We held him out another game and he practiced hard twice and now will have a good week of practice and hopefully we’ll be ready for a team that really handled us, to be honest, they did. Not only in the score but I thought they just played harder and that doesn’t happen to us very often. Hopefully we can find a way to get back on track.”