Today is Valentine’s Day. So if anyone was going to make a 3-pointer to give a team a massive win, why wouldn’t it be Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine?
That’s exactly what Valentine did, as he nailed a fadeaway jumper from beyond the arc with 3 seconds remaining to give Michigan State a critical 59-56 win over Ohio State.
That was Valentine’s fifth 3 of the day, and he ended up with 17 points in total to go with three rebounds, three assists and two steals. Huge game when they needed it most from him.
This one looked like it could be on the way to being a blowout, but Ohio State crept its way back into it in the second half through excellent play by Shannon Scott. Scott had nine critical points to bring the Buckeyes back close, but ultimately Michigan State’s defense clamped down and made life difficult on the perimeter-laden Buckeyes. D’Angelo Russell only ended up with 10 points and six assists, as Tum Tum Nairn and Valentine combined to deny him the ball and slow him down late. Russell only made one second half field goal (which was pretty awesome, by the way), and didn’t even attempt a shot in the final 3:30.
This game was potentially the most important basketball game of the day regarding the NCAA Tournament. Michigan State had (and still, to some extent, has) an awfully bubbly resume that only featured a road win against Iowa and a home win against Indiana as marquee Ws this year. Plus, with road games still remaining against Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana, it’s not out of the realm that they could end up as a 12-loss team heading into Selection Sunday. The Spartans needed this one bad, and got it.
Ohio State didn’t need it as bad as Michigan State did — its NCAA Tournament place didn’t hinge on this game like it could have for the Spartans — but the loss is problematic for the Buckeyes’ seeding potential. This all but assures that Ohio State’s best road win will come against Minnesota this season, as its remaining games come against Michigan and Penn State. Road wins are critical come NCAA time, and the Buckeyes just don’t have them. Now, they’ll get a chance to come up with some neutral site wins in the Big Ten Tournament, and they’ll need to take advantage of that chance. Otherwise, they’re looking at an 8-9 or 7-10 game, which will make it awfully difficult to make a tourney run.