Someone at the Big Ten office had to know what they were doing in scheduling Michigan State and Indiana for this week’s Sunday afternoon spotlight. There is no way to predict that the Spartans would be in the top ten of the polls and Indiana would be coming off one of its biggest wins of the year, taking down Iowa on Thursday in Assembly Hall. But anyone could tell you that having Denzel Valentine in the spotlight on Valentines Day would lead to some fun for everyone involved.
Valentine was the star in a brilliant showing from the Spartans, notching his 14th career double-double with 30 points and a career-high 13 assists. Jokes were made on the broadcast and students added to the fun, but no collection of puns or candy hearts can match the appreciation for a player who can’t help but show out in these spots.
It was on this day a year ago, after all, when Denzel Valentine hit a game-winning three-pointer with 3.2 seconds left to beat Ohio State. Sunday’s 88-69 win vs. Indiana was not nearly as stressful, with Valentine leading the way after halftime as Michigan State turned a one point game into a runaway victory with a 25-9 run to start the second period powered by 63.3 percent second half shooting and great defense on the perimeter against the Hoosiers.
Matt Costello had quite a day too, turning in a career-high 22 points, plus 11 rebounds and this rim-rattling dunk.
While Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield has deservedly dominated the Player of the Year conversation since Valentine missed four games following arthroscopic surgery on his knee, it’s going to be hard to ignore the Michigan State senior in this debate if he continues his current clip. Valentine is averaging 19.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.6 assists since returning to action and he’s got a chance to be the first player since 1995-96 to average 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists for a season.