Depth proves to be Spartans’ ace in the hole
Indianapolis — Maryland coach Mark Turgeon figured if his team could slow down Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes, it would have a good shot to play in the Big Ten tournament championship game.
Unfortunately for the Terrapins coach, he wasn’t counting on Michigan State’s depth to be the difference.
That’s exactly how it played out in No. 2 Michigan State’s 64-61 win over Maryland in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament. With Forbes struggling to make shots and Valentine getting dogged up and down the court, it was the role players that made the most of their chances.
Alvin Ellis hit two 3-pointers, playing heavy minutes with Eron Harris on the bench in foul trouble. Marvin Clark added a first-half 3-pointer and Matt McQuaid had one in the second half. All were vital in the Spartans’ 12th victory in the last 13 games.
“The shots that hurt us and the difference in the game is Harris makes two (3-pointers), McQuaid makes one, Clark makes one, and Ellis makes two,” Turgeon said. “That’s the difference. I mean, those are the ones I wasn’t counting on. And those guys made it. But that’s why you have a deep team. That’s why you recruit a deep team.”
Michigan State has had it all season, but with the senior trio of Valentine, Forbes and Matt Costello leading the way most nights, it hasn’t needed a whole lot in terms of scoring from the guys on the bench.
But they were all involved on Saturday. Ten players saw the floor for Michigan State and all 10 scored.
“We’re dependent on eight, nine guys, 10 guys even,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I think we played 10 and all of them scored. That’s amazing that we got something out of everybody.”
It came at a crucial time as Forbes, in particular, had a tough game. He finished with six points and was 0-for-4 from 3-point range, only the fourth time this season he didn’t make a 3-pointer and the first since the game at Iowa on Jan. 14.
Izzo knows he’ll need his stars moving forward, but it is quite the consolation knowing his bench has the ability to pick up the slack.
“I don’t think you’re going to live and die with that,” Izzo said. “I mean, Bryn has got to do a better job and so does Zel. We’re not going to win big games without our best players. Your best players have got to play well to win big games.
“But it is nice to know that your subs came in, and give them a lot of credit, man. One time I had to take Zel out because he was dead tired and we hung in there. I thought there was a lot of positives to that.”
Davis to the rescue
A lot of NBA draft boards have freshman Deyonta Davis projected as a first-round pick this summer, and the way he’s played the last couple of games makes it clear why.
The 6-foot-10 former Mr. Basketball in Michigan is a defensive standout, and his block in the final minute might have saved the game.
With Michigan State leading, 60-59, Diamond Stone backed down Costello and put up a shot over the senior. But Davis soared in and swatted the ball away.
“He’s done it two games in a row where he’s been a beast on defense, and that’s why he’s a projected lottery pick,” Costello said. “Diamond was backing me down and D.D. just came over the top and saved my butt.”
Davis then bothered Melo Trimble on his drive to the hoop in the final seconds.
“You could tell they were getting it together and playing well,” Turgeon said. “They built incredible depth in a guy like Davis who has gotten so much better. He’s a rim protector for them.”
Having Davis, who now has 63 blocks this season, in the game at that point was a late move by Izzo, who credited associate head coach Dwayne Stephens for the move.
“You’ve got to have your guys ready to execute down the stretch,” Izzo said. “And I think it speaks volumes. Give Dwayne Stephens credit. He’s the one that wanted to take D.D. out (earlier) and then said maybe he’ll block a shot because he’s somebody that can protect the rim. So my assistants did a great job.”
Denzel Valentine has 1,617 career points, ranking 11th in Michigan State’s all‐time scoring records. Also, his season total of 220 assists now ranks ninth‐best all‐time among Big Ten players. He’s among nine Big Ten players who have 10 or more assists in a tournament game.
… In 10 career Big Ten tournament games, Valentine became the first player in tournament history to accumulate at least 100 points (119), at least 50 rebounds (59) and at least 40 assists (49).
… Michigan State held Maryland without a field goal from 10:26 of the second half to 0:15 (Trimble’s layup that cut MSU’s lead to 62‐61).