A Michigan State team mastered in the art of playing down to its competition met a severely injury-depleted Michigan team Sunday afternoon and what transpired was one strange basketball game.
The Spartans prevailed 76-66 in overtime to keep them tied for second in the Big Ten standings.
The game was weird from the start. Michigan State started the game with an outstanding defensive possession which Michigan’s Zak Irvin thwarted by banking in a jumper with a hand in his face. From there it was back and forth the whole way.
The Wolverines jumped out to an eight-point lead early in the first half, but MSU battled back to go up seven thanks in large part to Denzel Valentine.
Valentine had 14 points in the first half. He missed his first attempt from the field but proceeded to go 4-8 from the three-point line in the half.
“I caught myself,” he said. “I was like, ‘You got Michigan at home, all the old players back, my parents in the crowd. I’m not going to have a bad game.’”
Michigan State carried a 29-24 lead into halftime, but it should not have been that close. MSU shot 9-31 in the first period, including eight misses within eight feet of the basket.
The second half was a shooting clinic for the Spartans. They went 15-21 from the field, which should have been enough, but MSU struggled on the defensive end.
Neither team led by more than five in the second half. Michigan State had one of those five point leads with less than 90 seconds left in the game before Michigan’s Spike Albrecht hit a deep three to give his team a chance. Michigan then fouled Valentine, the Spartans’ best free-throw shooter, with 31 seconds left. Valentine missed the front end of the one-and-one, which allowed the Wolverines to tie it at 66 with 20 seconds to play. Travis Trice missed a deep three at the buzzer and the teams went to the extra period.
From there it was all MSU. Literally. The Spartans outscored Michigan 10-0 in overtime and got a huge contribution from Matt Costello, who was the Spartans’ only viable big man after Gavin Schilling fouled out in the second half.
Valentine finished with a game-high 25 points, seven points and seven rebounds. Branden Dawson had his fifth double-double in seven games with 19 points and 10 boards.
Michigan State gets a week off before it takes on Illinois at the Breslin Center on Feb. 7. Tip off is scheduled for noon.
Andrew Hayes is the Host of Impact Izzone for Impact Sports