Michigan State standout Denzel Valentine talks about the Spartans win over Maryland to advance to the Big Ten Tournament final.

Denzel Valentine may not have played his best game of the season, but he did lead Michigan State to the Big Ten Tournament finals with a 64-61 win over Maryland.

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Michigan State Spartans standout Denzel Valentine knows the Spartans escaped a possible loss to Maryland with a poor second half of shooting.

Q. You guys have not beaten a Big Ten team by less than eight points since Maryland a year ago. That's how big in Big Ten play your wins have been. Do you think maybe that was a hindrance today? 

DENZEL VALENTINE: Yeah. Coach of Maryland, they had a heck of a game plan. They forced us to do some things offensively that we're not used to doing. They kind of took us out of our game. We kind of panicked there in the second half. And I think that was the biggest thing that we need to do and to learn from, is if teams give us a different look on offense and when it's a tight game like that, we need to find a way to win. And we found a way to win. But it wasn't pretty, and we're going to learn from it. 

Q. Denzel, down the stretch when you get to that free-throw line and you hit the two shots at the end but you missed the one, have you ever had a difficult time any time in your career of blocking that out, knowing what's on the line? What's your mental procedure that you go through?

DENZEL VALENTINE: I just think about all the time, hours I spent in the gym shooting free throws, all the extra free throws I shoot. At that moment -- I think of my legacy at that moment honestly. And that's the biggest motivation to me, to make the shots. That second one, I thought it was good. I kind of faded a little bit. Worried about getting back on defense. Usually don't do that. So I just -- next time, I mean, it was just a learning experience for me just to stay in there. Just to stay in there, be composed. Been doing this all my life. It was just a free throw. But it's a good learning experience for me and also the team. 

Q. There are bigger things at stake here tomorrow. But Purdue is the one team that's beaten you down the stretch here. Is that any more incentive for you?

DENZEL VALENTINE: I mean, kind of. But, like I said, this is a championship game. And it's much more than getting revenge on Purdue. No disrespect to them. But we have bigger goals and aspirations. We want to win the championship. It makes it better because it so happens to be Purdue, and we lost to them earlier in the season. But at the same time, we're not worried about that. We're worried about holding that trophy up and them saying Michigan State Spartans are the champions. That's what we're worried about. 


Michigan State advances to Sunday’s Big Ten Tournament Championship game against Purdue. The No. 2 and No. 4 seeds have met twice before in the title game (2000 and 2013) and both times the No. 2 has won the tournament crown. Michigan State is 25-14 in tournament games.  

The Spartans have won 12 of their last 13 games, improving their record to 28-5. Michigan State has a 7-1 record in its last seven games they’ve played in the Big Ten Tournament.  

For his career, Tom Izzo’s coaching record is 99-42 (.702) in the month of March. Izzo has the best record of any other coach in the Big Ten Tournament with .774 (24-7).  

Denzel Valentine has 1,617 career points, ranking 11th in Michigan State’s all-time scoring records. His season total of 220 assists now ranks ninth-best all-time among Big Ten players. He’s among nine Big Ten players who have 10+ assists in a tournament game (tied with five others for seventh place).  

With 10 career Big Ten Tournament games, Denzel Valentine became the first player in tournament history to accumulate at least 100 points (119), at least 50 rebounds (59) and at least 40 assists (49).  

All 10 Spartan players who entered today’s game scored at least two points.  Michigan State hit eight three-point field goals against Maryland, raising its total to (302) for the season.     

MSU held Maryland without a field goal l from 10:26 of the second half to 0:15 (Melo Trimble’s layup). That cut MSU’s lead to 62-61.


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