EAST LANSING, Mich. – Denzel Valentine dominated when No. 3 Michigan State needed its senior star to deliver.
Valentine scored 11 of his 25 points in the final 5 minutes, 6 seconds, including a tiebreaking three-pointer and all six of his free throws in the final minute, to help the Spartans seal a 71-67 comeback win over No. 24 Louisville on Wednesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
“At winning time, he rose up and that’s what makes him special,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
The Spartans (8-0) trailed by as much as 13 in the first half and didn’t take their first lead until there was 6:47 left.
After a fifth tie in a five-minute stretch that had the intensity of an NCAA tournament game, Valentine made a three-pointer, set up Deyonta Davis for an alley-oop dunk and scored on a shot in the lane to put Michigan State up 65-58 with 1:54 left.
“The one guy we didn’t want to make plays was Valentine,” Louisville assistant coach Ralph Willard said. “We wanted somebody else to beat us, going into the game, and unfortunately we gave him an opportunity to win the basketball game. And as a lot of great players do, he did it. He came through and made plays for them.”
Michigan State’s Bryn Forbes scored a season-high 20, Davis had nine points and six rebounds, and Kenny Goins, a redshirt freshman had 13 rebounds, equaling his total from his first seven games, and scored a career-high five points.
“Kenny played out of his mind,” Valentine said. “I didn’t know he had that in him.”
The Spartans beat Providence on Sunday night in California to win the Wooden Legacy tournament, then flew home, arriving about 7 a.m. Monday.
“To pull out a win like this was huge,” Valentine said. “We weren’t in the best of shape. It was like a one-day prep, but you can’t make excuses like that. You just get the job done.”
Louisville (5-1) pulled within two points three times in the final minute but couldn’t get closer because Valentine didn’t miss a free throw.
Damion Lee scored 23 points and Trey Lewis 21 for the Cardinals in their first game this season on an opponent’s home court.
“We played well enough to win this game,” Lewis said. “We played great in the first half.”
Coach Rick Pitino didn’t talk to reporters after the game, leaving Willard to relay what he said to his players.
“We feel we had a great opportunity to win this basketball game and it slipped away,” Willard said.
The Cardinals took the lead and kept it for much of the game because they made a lot of shots following Michigan State’s baskets. “I was so impressed with them for two-thirds of that game,” Izzo said.