“Denzel (Valentine), the first three games was unbelievable,” Izzo during an interview The Drive with Jack on WQTX, via Kyle of Austin of MLive.com. “He could have been the MVP of the whole tournament.”
Valentine began the trip with 16 points in a lopsided win over Basket Fiorentina. From there, the competition got much tougher, as the Spartans dropped their second game, 93-75, to the Russian National Team, a team ranked sixth in the FIBA world rankings. In a losing effort, Valentine had a game-high 21 points with five assists in 34 minutes of action.
He followed that performance up with 23 points in a 90-69 loss to the Italian National Team, ranked No. 36 in the world. In four games, the senior wing averaged 17.0 points per game.
The 6-foot-5 Valentine is coming off a junior campaign where he averaged 14.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assits per game. His offseason also included a stint with USA Basketball in the 2015 Pan-Am Games.
Gavin Schilling and freshman Matt McQuaid were also praised by Izzo in the interview. Byrn Forbes scored in double figures three times on the trip, while Tum Tum Nairn recorded 16 assists to six turnovers in the three games against the senior national teams.
Michigan State’s impact transfer guard Eron Harris sat out the trip after his offseason arrest.
Michigan State played some tough competition in the final three games of its four-game trip to Italy, as they took part in a four-team tournament that included the national teams from Italy, Russia and Georgia. Sunday afternoon Tom Izzo’s team took on Georgia, with their comeback from a 14-point deficit falling a point short (71-70) as Bryn Forbes’ long three-point attempt as time expired hit the back iron.
Gavin Schilling led the way for Michigan State with 17 points and nine rebounds, Forbes added 14 points and point guard Tum Tum Nairn played what Izzo praised as his “best game of his year so far.” While Michigan State finished the trip with a 1-3 record, playing against seasoned competition (all three international teams will compete in next month’s Eurobasket tournament) can only benefit the Spartans when it comes to the 2015-16 campaign.
Above are some clips from the game as well as remarks from Izzo, as put together by Michigan State Athletics.
Highlights of Michigan State’s Italy trip-opening win over Basket Fiorentina
After taking in the sights of Italy for a couple days, Michigan State played the first game of its overseas trip Tuesday evening in Florence. Tom Izzo’s Spartans spent the early part of the game shaking off some travel-induced rust, but once they got going Basket Fiorentina found itself in trouble.
Michigan State won by the final score of 98-54, with Bryn Forbes scoring 18 points to lead a balanced attack. Above are some highlights from the game, as well as words from Izzo on how things went. Michigan State, which is working to find offensive options to account for the loss of Travis Trice and Branden Dawson, assisted on 25 of their 38 made field goals and shot nearly 58 percent from the field.
Forbes and fellow senior Denzel Valentine will be key players for the Spartans in 2015-16 and the same goes for sophomore point guard Tum Tum Nairn, who finished the game with a game-high eight assists. While it’s difficult to apply stats in these exhibitions to the upcoming season, overseas trips can be helpful in areas such as role definition and the understanding of those roles. That should help the Spartans as they look to not only contend in the Big Ten but make a return trip to the Final Four.