Win has Izzo feel­ing good about Sparty

Chicago Sun-Times - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL -

Den­zel Valen­tine and his fel­low Michi­gan State se­niors went out in style, coast­ing past Ohio State and com­pelling coach Tom Izzo to make a bold state­ment in pub­lic.

Valen­tine scored 27 points and matched a ca­reer high with 13 as­sists in his last home game, help­ing the No. 2 Spar­tans de­feat the Buck­eyes 91-76. Michi­gan State (26-5, 13-5 Big Ten) has won 10 of its last 11 games and will be the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tour­na­ment, which be­gins Wed­nes­day in In­di­anapo­lis.

‘‘We didn’t win the Big Ten cham­pi­onship, but we can win two more cham­pi­onships,’’ Valen­tine said, re­fer­ring to the con­fer­ence tour­na­ment and NCAA tour­na­ment. ‘‘We’ve got nine more games. We’re not done.’’

While Izzo and his team will want to farewell in In­di­anapo­lis, they­will be much more mo­ti­vated to win the NCAA tour­na­ment. And Izzo said likes the Spar­tans’ chances.

Izzo told fans at the Bres­lin Cen­ter he thought three of his pre­vi­ous seven Fi­nal Four teams had a ‘‘le­git­i­mate chance’’ to win it all en­ter­ing those tour­na­ments.

‘‘I’m putting my neck on the line,’’ he said. ‘‘This is my fourth.’’

Izzo later told re­porters this Michi­gan State team com­pares to the cham­pi­onship-cal­iber teams he had 1999, 2000 and 2010. The 2000 team won the NCAA ti­tle.

The Buck­eyes (19-12, 11-7), mean­while, have lost only two of their last seven games — both to the Spar­tans. After­ward, Ohio State coach Thad Matta was asked whether he thinks his team has to win the Big Ten tour­na­ment to get into the NCAA field.

‘‘I haven’t thought that far ahead,’’ he said.

Matt Costello added 15 points and 11 re­bounds and Bryn Forbes 14 points in their last home games for Michi­gan State. Marc Lov­ing scored 21 points, JaQuan Lyle 18 and Kam Wil­liams 15 for the Buck­eyes.

Rut­gers 75, Min­nesota 52

Mike Wil­liams scored a ca­reer­high 29 points, and the Scar­let Knights (7-24, 1-17) ended a 32-game Big Ten los­ing streak and a 17-game skid over­all with a rout of the Golden Go­phers (8-22, 2-16) in Pis­cat­away, New Jersey.

The vic­tory was Rut­gers’ first in the con­fer­ence since a 67-62 up­set of then-No. 4 Wis­con­sin on Jan. 11, 2015. It was the Scar­let Knights’ first vic­tory over­all since they beat Mas­sachusetts-Low­ell on Dec. 28.

Min­nesota, which shot a sea­son­low 30 per­cent, never had a chance. Golden Go­phers coach Richard Pitino sus­pended guards Kevin Dorsey, Nate Ma­son and Dupree McBrayer for the rest of the sea­son ear­lier in the week be­cause of a sex­u­ally ex­plicit video that ap­peared on Dorsey’s so­cial-me­dia ac­counts.

Min­nesota also lost for­ward Joey King to a bro­ken foot ear­lier in the week, leav­ing it with eight play­ers, in­clud­ing three walk-ons.

Iowa 71, Michi­gan 61

Jar­rod Uthoff scored 29 points, and the No. 16 Hawkeyes (21-9, 12-6) ended a four-game los­ing streak by de­feat­ing the Wolver­ines (20-11, 10-8) in Ann Ar­bor, Michi­gan.

Iowa led by 15 points with 10:13 left, but Michi­gan scored the next 10 points to get back into the game. The Wolver­ines couldn’t get any closer, though, and lost for the fourth time in their last five games. They likely will need a good show­ing in the Big Ten tour­na­ment this week to reach the NCAA tour­na­ment.

Sun-Times wires


Michi­gan State star Den­zel Valen­tine ac­knowl­edges the ap­plause of the crowd as he leaves his fi­nal home game Satur­day against Ohio State.

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