Michigan State rode a 32 point, 9 rebound and 7 assist effort from Denzel Valentine to beat Boise by 10 in the semifinal of the Wooden Legacy. Zel scored 22 of those points in the second half and the vast majority of those in an insane burst of three point shooting which took a 1 point lead back out to double digits.
Again, an abbreviated post-game follows.
1. #45 – He’s a superstar now. It can’t be denied. I thought he’d be Big Ten POY and said so in the summer and in the preseason but even I didn’t see quite this level of play coming. That burst of threes he put on Boise is the kind of thing only the truly dominant, special players at this level can do. The one he hit on the left sideline was indiciative of what kind of zone he was in, because it was VERY well defended. He had no room and had to flick it off with zero hesitation…and he did it and he hit it. He was effective in the other areas as well, perhaps most importantly on the defensive end. Boise’s leading scorer, Anthony Drimic, was guarded by Zel pretty much the whole way. He was held to half his average, 9 points, and only one made field goal. Total effort from the Spartans’ leader, particularly in the second half after Izzo challenged him.
2. Free Throws – In a relatively tight game, they mattered and MSU was great, hitting 17 of 19 as a team.
3. Second half defense – I thought MSU was better in the second half in dealing with Boise’s stuff. They are a good, solid, NCAA Tournament quality team and in the first half I thought they did some nice stuff off picks and managed to get guys in mismatches which they were able to exploit. Definitely a veteran, well coached team. However, in the second half I thought MSU was generally sounder in guarding them…didn’t see as many blown tires or failures to locate shooters on the arc. MSU didn’t lock them down statistically but I thought they played well enough defensively in the second half to deserve the victory.
4. DD – He had 12 points and it really all just came within the flow of the game, save two memorable plays…I say memorable because they showed flashes of what he will eventually become. In the first half, he hit a smooth baseline hook which looked dynamite. Smooth and under control, which is what you want to see on that shot. In the second half, he got Brad Daugherty’s attention when he drained a 15 foot jumper effortlessly. BD doesn’t realize DD has that in his arsenal…it’s no fluke he hit it and looked good doing it. Those things will be seen more regularly as the next several months unfold. For now, you have to be content with occasional flashes and the way he can be a weapon just by being active, athletic and a long, long 6’10”, because he’ll contribute that way as well.
5. Tum – Another good performance from MSU’s point guard. I thought he was, other than Zel, MSU’s best defensive player. He hit another triple and was 4-8 from the floor overall with some truly great takes to the basket, as if he was a video game character Izzo pushed the turbo button on. The stats I’m looking at also had him with 7 assists and 0 TOs, so another strong effort in that regard as well (he really has a nice understanding already with DD on lobs).
6. Goins – A quietly solid performance from MSU’s preferred walk on. Due to foul trouble, MSU had to turn to him to play extended first half minutes and I thought he more than held his own. He got a couple of buckets as the roll man with Denzel but I liked the way he battled on defense in the post even more, and he had 4 boards to boot. Good to see another deep bench guy further demonstrate that you can rely on him to help when the going gets tough.
7. Ball movement – 23 assists on 25 made field goals…par for the course for this group. I thought Boise really made them earn it, though…it was not often pretty and a lot of that was due to how the Broncos defended.
THE BAD AND THE UGLY
1. Interior finishing – MSU’s big man other than DD had a rough night at the rim. Costello and Bess were not strong with the ball, as they have been throughout the season up until this point (particularly Bess, who’s been living at the foul line). No big deal if it’s a one night deal but they’ll need to be much tougher in the paint against a big Arizona team if that ends up being the Sunday matchup.
2. Reaching – MSU was in foul trouble for a lot of this game and though I take issue with some of it, most of them looked to be pretty good calls. I did not think we did a good job in containing dribble penetration in the first half and even on occasion in a generally better second half performance as well. Guys have just got to put their hands away…they don’t like it, I don’t like it, but it’s how it is.
3. Offensive Rebounding – MSU did win the war here, by an 8-6 count, but I didn’t think we were at our best. Seemed the energy was a bit off, which will happen on a second straight day of playing. However, it was the same deal for the other guys, so that can’t be an excuse.
MSU awaits the winner of Providence and Arizona for the championship game on Sunday. They’ll either see a top 15 team (Arizona) or a top 15 national player (Providence’s Kris Dunn).