Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Valentine’s Day Comes Early as Michigan State Storms Back to Stun Kansas
CHICAGO — Michigan State made sure Valentine’s Day came about three months early on Tuesday night.
Denzel Valentine, the Spartans’ senior star, became the fourth player in program history to record a triple-double to boost No. 13 Michigan State to a 79-73 victory over No. 4 Kansas in the second game of the State Farm Champions Classic.
Valentine had 29 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists and only a single turnover to lead the Spartans to a comeback after trailing by 11 with 9:21 remaining. Magic Johnson is the only other Michigan State player to record a triple-double against Kansas.
Magic called Valentine to congratulate him and asked him what his favorite part of the triple-double was. Valentine told him, “Assists.”
“It was Magic, what else are you supposed to say?” Valentine said.
Kansas coach Bill Self had a front-row seat for Valentine’s run, and left the game impressed.
“Give him credit,” Self said. “I always thought he was a good player. Tonight I think he proved to everybody that he’s an exceptional player… He totally controlled the game when they were coming back.”
Freshman Matt McQuaid also made a coupe of key three-pointers late in the game for the Spartans. But it was the trio of veterans in Valentine, Matt Costello and Bryn Forbes who sat together at the postgame media table.
That group may be different than the younger cores that lead teams like Kentucky or Duke, but Spartans coach Tom Izzo said that one style of team or recruitment doesn’t make him feel any more or less comfortable.
“I don’t think about it that way,” Izzo joked. “You know, if you have a ‘one-and-done’ brother somewhere, send him my way. Better players make you a better coach.
“I like it whatever way I got it. I just like guys who want to compete. I like guys who think that winning is important.”
And Izzo certainly owes a lot to Valentine for this victory.
“We didn’t execute really well at times, we kind of hammed-and-egged it through,” Izzo said. “But he sucked it up… the kid is like Draymond [Green]. Thank God he’s mine.”
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Valentine’s Day Comes Early as Michigan State Storms Back to Stun KansasN
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.