One day after the Valentine brothers would normally be eating Thanksgiving dinner together, they were duking it out on the court Friday night when Drew and his Oakland team came to East Lansing to take on the 15th ranked Michigan State basketball team and his younger brother Denzel.
The game got off to a slow start early as neither team was able to get a steady flow going on offense. At the midway point of the first half, the score was only 12-9 in favor of Michigan State. However, after that, the Spartans picked up the pace a little and eventually took a 34-21 lead into the half.
Late in the first half, Michigan State received a scare when junior guard Keith Appling hobbled off the court after turning his ankle. He would return in the second half though. Good thing too. A loss of another guard would have been absolutely devastating for this team as Michigan State was already without the aid of freshman guard Gary Harris (strained shoulder) and sophomore guard Travis Trice (concussion, broken nose).
When they came out in the second half, the game continued to be played quite sloppily. Oakland hung around for a really long time and eventually cut Michigan State’s lead to 4 with 6 ½ minutes to go when Oakland guard Duke Mondy hit a three to make it 55-51.
However, after that, Michigan State went on a run and never looked back. They closed out the game on 15-1 run, taking the game 70-52 to improve to 4-1 on the season.
All in all, it was a sloppy game for both teams. Michigan State turned the ball over 20 times while Oakland shot just 27.6% from the field.
“It was the worst game that Oakland and Michigan State have played,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said.
Appling returned from his twisted ankle and played another great game, scoring 20 points while grabbing 6 rebounds in 38 minutes of action. This game was yet another example of how Appling, over the course of the past few games has really stepped up and led this team in the absence of Harris and Trice.
“Keith Appling is becoming a man,” Izzo said. “I’m trying to get him to take more a leadership role because he’s a point guard and he’s doing incredible.”
Adreian Payne added 15 points and 9 rebounds while Derrick Nix chipped in with 10 points and 7 boards. Freshman Denzel Valentine played in quite possibly his best game to date, finishing with 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists. It was fairly evident he won the battle of the Valentines while his brother Drew finished the game with just 5 points, 4 rebounds, playing in all 40 minutes of the game on a bum knee.
At this point of the season, Michigan State is definitely struggling a lot with injuries. Harris is expected to miss the next 2-3 weeks while Trice should be coming back any game now wearing a mask. If they can make it through these next couple of weeks and get closer to B1G play, they should be fine.
However, there is no excuse for the 20 turnovers tonight and letting a mediocre Oakland team hang around as long as they did. Those turnovers are something this team will need to work on if they expect to be contending for a B1G championship this season.
Up next for the Spartans, they will conclude their busy week this Sunday as they are set to take on Louisiana-Lafayette (2-3) at the Breslin Center. Michigan State will need to touch up on a few things in this game before traveling to Florida on Wednesday to take on Miami(FL) in the B1G/ACC challenge.
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