In its 87-61 rout of the Oakland Golden Grizzlies on Sunday, the Michigan State Spartans found what they have been looking for: Consistency.
A week prior, the Spartans enjoyed an 85-52 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but were plagued with turnovers and poor play that allowed them to be outscored 32-31 in the second half.
This week, though, MSU (7-3) kept its foot on the gas, pulling away late in the first half against the Golden Grizzlies (4-6) and never letting up, thanks to hot shooting and ball movement from its key players.
The Spartans finished with five scorers in double figures, with Denzel Valentine leading the way, going 5-for-6 with 19 points. Branden Dawson finished with 15 points.
“Like they all say, when you make shots, it cures a lot of evils. And we shot the daylights out of the ball,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo said.
Michigan State entered the game ranked fourth in the nation in shooting beyond the arc at 44.4 percent, and continued their outside shooting success against OU, going 10-for-17 on 3-pointers.
Of Valentine’s 19 points, 15 came from 3-pointers.
“You have to give Valentine a lot of credit,” Izzo said. “He was a decent shooter last year, but he’s turned into a very, very, very good shooter.”
For the first 15 minutes, Oakland kept up with the Spartans’ quick pace, trading shots and often finding redshirt senior Corey Petros down low. Both teams combined for four 3-pointers in less than two minutes near the 13-minute mark.
But it soon became evident Michigan State’s shooting would be no match for the Golden Grizzlies. A Valentine 3-pointer kicked off a 19-9 run that gave the Spartans a 44-31 lead at halftime.
The second half was more of the same for Michigan State.
The Spartans opened up play with an 11-4 run, and junior guard Bryn Forbes hit a three-pointer at the 17-minute mark to put Michigan State ahead, 55-35. Izzo said the Spartans played even better as a defensive unit in the second half.
"I thought we executed our plays as well as I've seen us do in maybe over a year," Izzo said.
The Spartans' solid shooting didn't just solidify their consistency on Sunday night; it also helped one Spartan reach a milestone. Forbes, a transfer from Cleveland State, hit his 1,000th-career point mark. With his performance, Dawson needs only three points to reach the same achievement.
"It's a good accomplishment," Forbes said. "I pride myself in scoring, so I'm happy to do that. But, I have my eyes on a bigger goal now, and that's getting to where we want to go."
Dawson and point guard Travis Trice flourished in their roles, with Dawson looking hungry near the basket, tallying 14 shot attempts. Trice recorded a game-high eight assists despite a limp ankle.
"I always tell my guys, 'When the head dies, the body goes; and when the head rises, the body follows," Izzo said of Trice. "He is the head, and he did a hell of a job."
Oakland's Dante Williams finished with 15 points, and both Petros and point guard Kahlil Felder scored 13 points.
The Spartans will look to extend its momentum when it hosts Eastern Michigan on December 17 at 9 p.m.