INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Denzel Valentine was already upset about finishing second in the Big Ten.
Now he and his teammates have something to prove in the NCAA Tournament – that the selection committee made a mistake by giving the Spartans a No. 2 seed.
After taking out his frustration in Indianapolis by flirting with triple-doubles on three consecutive days and leading second-ranked Michigan State to another conference tournament title, the Big Ten player of the year is already gearing up for his next assignment.
“We got a tournament championship,” Valentine said after claiming the league’s automatic bid Sunday with a 66-62 victory over No. 13 Purdue. “It’s up to the committee who they seed. We have no control over that. We’re just going to come out and play Michigan State basketball in the tournament.”
If Valentine keeps playing this well, he just might carry the Spartans (29-5) to a third national title.
In the championship game, Valentine finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists and made all the big plays late – just like he did in Saturday’s semifinal against No. 18 Maryland.
He was an easy choice as the tourney’s Most Outstanding Player.
But, naturally, Valentine and his teammates quickly shifted their focus to their next mission – beating Middle Tennessee State in the Midwest Region on Friday and starting another long postseason run.
“We talk about legacy all the time, leave your footprint in the sand,” Matt Costello said. “Right now we’re just trying to win another championship.”
They took care of one Sunday, thanks largely to Valentine’s ability to make big play after big play.
He thwarted one of Purdue’s runs by stripping the ball from Johnny Hill, driving the length of the court and drawing a foul. Then, after losing his balance on a drive, Valentine somehow flipped an alley-oop pass to Deyonta Davis almost from his knees for a dunk to make it 48-41.
After A.J. Hammons’ dunk got the Boilermakers within 52-51 with 7:48 to go, Valentine grabbed a rebound off of his own miss and quickly found Bryn Forbes open for a 3-pointer.
And twice in the final minute, when Purdue had a chance to take the lead and tie the score, Valentine came up with the defensive rebounds to seal it.
The celebration didn’t last long.
“I’m not worried about where we’re going,” coach Tom Izzo said. “I’m worried about winning a championship.”
Purdue (26-8), which is the fifth seed in the Midwest Region and will play Arkansas-Little Rock on Thursday in Denver, was led by Vince Edwards with 19 points while A.J. Hammons and Caleb Swanigan each had 11 as they helped the Boilermakers make a valiant rally after trailing 46-33 early in the second half.
The Boilermakers answered with eight straight points to cut the deficit to five before Valentine’s pass for the dunk. They got as close as 62-61 when Rapheal Davis made two free throws with 2:50 to play before Valentine made a seemingly impossible 16-foot double-clutch jumper.
Purdue didn’t make another basket.
“We had a good fight to us today,” coach Matt Painter said. “We had some plays there at the end where were attacking the rim, doing some good things and it just didn’t go our way.”CITY OF CHAMPIONS
Indianapolis is becoming Michigan State’s second home. Izzo won the national title here in 2000 and reached the last two Final Fours in town, too. Now, after the football team won the Big Ten title here in December and the women’s basketball team reached last weekend’s tournament title game, Izzo got his third straight Big Ten title when the tourney was played in Indy.THREE FOR THREE
For the third consecutive day, the Boilermakers faced an opponent that was playing its third game in three days. After blowing out Illinois 89-58 in Friday’s quarterfinals and pulling away from Michigan for a 76-59 win in the semifinals, their run came up short on their third game in three days.BALANCING ACT
Valentine was the only Michigan State player to reach double figures Sunday. But the Spartans had plenty of balance. Ten other players scored, led by Forbes, who had nine points, and Matt Costello, who had eight.TIP-INS
Purdue: Trailed for a combined total of 70 seconds in the tournament before Sunday. … Half of Purdue’s eight losses came in its own state, Indiana. The Boilermakers lost at home to Iowa, at Indiana and twice in Indy. … Purdue was outrebounded for only the second time this season. Michigan State, which led the nation in rebounding margin, had a 41-31 edge.
Michigan State: Is 5-1 in Big Ten championship games and tied Ohio State for the most tourney titles. But the Buckeyes vacated their 2002 crown. … The Spartans made eight 3-pointers to break the school’s season record. The Spartans have 310, six more than the 2013-14 team. … Costello blocked four shots to become the school’s career leader with 145. He broke a tie for second with Adreian Payne (141) before passing Branden Dawson (142).UP NEXT
Purdue: NCAA Tournament.
Michigan State: NCAA Tournament.