It’s not easy being number one, but Michigan State is going to remain at the very top of the polls thanks to its close-shave home win over Florida on Saturday night.
The Spartans went retro and won ugly, taking down a foe the way Tom Izzo’s lesser-talented teams of old used to. The 58-52 final against 6-3 Florida moves MSU to 11-0. Sparty and fellow Big Ten program Purdue are the only 11-0 teams in the nation. Credit to Florida for mucking up the action and giving themselves a shot; first-year Gators coach Mike White had a nice gameplan, but it wasn’t enough.
“They threw different defenses at us,” MSU’s Denzel Valentine said on ESPN after the game. “They were a tough team tonight.”
Still, it was closer than many expected. UF had the lead midway through the second half. Valentine, arguably the current frontrunner for national player of the year, was unusually off, going for “just” 17 points, five rebounds and two assists.
“I didn’t feel the best tonight. I played a pretty bad game for me; I hold myself to higher standards,” Valentine said. “But credit to my teammates. … Bryn Forbes was key down the stretch. Matt Costello played out of his mind. Tum-Tum [Nairn] made big defensive stops.”
Dorian Finney-Smith led the Gators with 13 points.
The Spartans won despite 37-percent shooting and committing four more turnovers than Florida. It was a special night at the Breslin Center, as the school took time to honor its 2000 national championship team.
“Those guys are my idols,” Valentine said.
Tonight’s game programs will also come with a commemorative poster of the 2000 NCAA Championship team. pic.twitter.com/OnlTwWLJTI
— Spartan Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) December 12, 2015