There was no love lost on this afternoon’s Valentine’s Day showdown in East Lansing between the Michigan State Spartans and the Ohio State Buckeyes. The two rivals met for a pivotal Big Ten conference game in their only matchup in the season. A typical Big Ten back-and-forth struggle took place as Michigan State was able to get by the Buckeyes thanks to a big game from guard Denzel Valentine.
Valentine scored the go-ahead three-pointer with 3.2 seconds left, effectively putting an arrow through the hearts of Ohio State players and fans and resulting in a 59-56 Spartan victory. Valentine scored had a game-high 17 points to go along with 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. Arguably their best player and most versatile, Valentine can can fill up a box score on any given night. Teammate Branden Dawson chipped in with another double-double, scoring 15 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Guard Travis Trice recorded 9 points and also 5 assists while backcourt mate Bryn Forbes remained relatively quiet, pulling down just 3 rebounds and dishing 1 assist.
The Spartans got an unexpected and strong showing from freshman guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn, Jr., as he played 36 minutes (2nd highest on team) and recorded 7 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Tum Tum started in place of Trice, who has been on and off while he continues to deal with a sore shoulder. Forward Matt Costello also had a solid game in the paint, chipping in with 9 points and 5 rebounds.
A significant momentum shift came when Dawson connected on two free throws with 3:18 to go in the game to put Michigan State up by 3. ESPN’s cameras found head coach Tom Izzo all fired up and excited to see a player on his team convert free throws, which has been undoubtedly the Achilles’ heel for his Spartans basketball team this season.
Meanwhile, Ohio State provided a well-balanced scoring attack. Freshman star D’Angelo Russell had 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. The leading scorer for the Buckeyes was senior guard Shannon Scott, who tallied 15 points. Returning from his suspension after three games, Buckeyes forward Marc Loving scored 5 points off the bench.
Up next for each team: both squads will take turns with the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan State heads to Ann Arbor on Tuesday, 9 P.M. on ESPN while the Buckeyes will face the Wolverines next Sunday at 1 P.M.