Tom Crean

Michigan State's Denzel Valentine (45) shoots over Indiana's Kevin Yogi Ferrell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
AP Photo/Al Goldis

Denzel Valentine dominant as No. 8 Michigan State whips Indiana

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Trailing by one point at the half, Indiana appeared to be in good shape at No. 8 Michigan State. However the fact that they were unable to slow down Denzel Valentine, who scored 15 first-half points, was a major concern for Tom Crean’s Hoosiers. Sure enough the national Player of the Year candidate continued on his tour de force in the second half, scoring another 15 points and dishing out seven assists as the Spartans rolled to an 88-69 victory.

For the game Valentine finished with 30 points, five rebounds, 13 assists and just one turnover. Of Michigan State’s 48 second half points, Valentine had a hand in 29 of them with all seven of his assists resulting in Michigan State layups. It was a dominant performance from one of the nation’s best players, a versatile guard whose four games missed due to injury may have led to some overlooking him when it comes to those national Player of the Year conversations.

When Valentine’s on everything else flows smoothly for Tom Izzo’s team, as his ability to both score and create results in quality looks for teammates who would struggle if they had to get that part of the job done themselves.

The biggest beneficiary Sunday afternoon was forward Matt Costello, who finished the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Of Costello’s ten made field goals (10-for-12 FG) five were assisted by Valentine, and he accounted for 13 points and seven rebounds in the second half. As a team Michigan State shot 63.3 percent from the field and assisted on 16 of their 19 made field goals in the second half, turning a tight contest into a blowout.

Tum Tum Nairn returned the court for the first time in seven games, but he played just two minutes and his time on the court will be managed carefully by Izzo moving forward. For many teams not having your point guard at full strength would represent a crippling blow, but that hasn’t been the case for Michigan State thanks in large part to Valentine. Michigan State went 4-3 in those seven games without Nairn, but the three losses were by a total of three points.

Valentine’s ability to make his teammates better will be a key factor down the stretch for Michigan State, and that skill was what led to the Spartans blowing out Indiana on Sunday.

No. 22 Indiana rips off 25-0 run, blows out Michigan

Indiana center Thomas Bryant, left, defends a shot attempt from guard Zak Irvin (21), in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Indiana won 80-67. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
AP Photo/Tony Ding
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With 14:31 remaining in the first half Derrick Walton Jr. hit a three-pointer to give Michigan a 15-4 lead at home against No. 22 Indiana. With the Hoosiers tied for first in the Big Ten, this could have been a nice win for the Wolverines’ NCAA tournament résumé. Unfortunately for John Beilein’s team things didn’t play out that way, with Walton’s shot essentially being the team’s final highlight of the game.

Indiana would outscore the Wolverines 41-9 the rest of the half, and that included a 25-0 run over the final 8:42, on their way to an 80-67 win that wasn’t as close as the final margin would indicate. The run can be seen in the embedded tweet below, with the baskets that came as part of the 25-0 finish starting at the 12 second mark.

The fact that Indiana put points on the board is no surprise at all; the Hoosiers have been one of the most efficient teams in the country even with the season-ending injury suffered by James Blackmon Jr. The area that has changed for the Hoosiers has been their defense, most notably the effort shown on that end of the floor.

Early in the season Indiana was at best indifferent on defense, with their ability to score points serving as a crutch players were far too willing to rely on. That’s changed in recent weeks, even with Indiana’s relatively light conference schedule to this point. Yogi Ferrell’s been the leader for Indiana, with Thomas Bryant making strides and role players such as Max Bielfeldt and OG Anunoby chipping in as well.

Michigan shot just 28.1 percent from the field in the first half Tuesday night, as Indiana took away the high-quality looks the Wolverines were able to find at the game’s start. Michigan aims to spread teams with the way in which they run their offense, using screens and cuts to produce quality shots. But the Hoosiers remained disciplined, and the open looks were few and far between for the home team as a result.

Given Indiana’s conference schedule they’ve still got some major challenges in front of them before the end of the regular season, with games against Iowa (twice), Michigan State, Purdue and Maryland remaining on the schedule. But there’s no denying that Indiana has made significant improvements since their struggles in some high-profile non-conference games, making the Hoosiers a team that’s at the very least better equipped to hold their own in those upcoming games against the Big Ten’s best.

Bryant helps No. 19 Hoosiers hold off Gophers for 74-68 win

Indiana center Thomas Bryant (31) shoots over Minnesota center Bakary Konate (21) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Bloomington, Ind., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. Indiana won 74-68. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
AP Photo/AJ Mast
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) Indiana’s Thomas Bryant got down and dirty Saturday and looked good doing it.

He scored points, banged inside, played defense and jump-started the Hoosiers’ sometimes anemic offense at three key points.

The freshman center had a career-high 23 points, grabbed eight rebounds and scored the go-ahead basket on a putback with 1:56 left to help No. 19 Indiana fend off Minnesota’s frantic second-half rally for a 74-68 victory.

“It was just one of those games that you have to do some things to find a way to win the game and he had a big impact,” coach Tom Crean said.

Bryant made plays on both ends in a game the Hoosiers (18-4, 8-1 Big Ten) desperately needed after the Golden Gophers erased a 16-point second-half deficit and took a 67-66 lead with 3:54 to go.

But Bryant clogged up the middle and the Golden Gophers didn’t make another basket.

Offensively, Bryant’s basket off the rebound and an emphatic dunk with 27 seconds left made it 70-67. That was all the Hoosiers needed.

“I felt like Thomas stayed with it even when calls didn’t go his way,” senior guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell said after scoring 13 points. “He kept his head, he played great defense, he rebounded well for us and he had that poise for us.”

This was no typical game for the surging Hoosiers.

They started slow, didn’t take the lead until midway through the first half, didn’t make a 3-pointer for the first 14 1/2 minutes and couldn’t close it out against a team that has now lost 11 in a row.

Minnesota (6-16, 0-10) was led by Nate Mason and Kevin Dorsey, who each had 21 points. Dorsey’s scoring total was a career high.

After trailing 39-27 at halftime and 48-32 with 16:33 to play, the Gophers rallied.

They scored six straight points, went on an 11-4 run and finally took the lead when Dupree Brayer came up with a steal and scored on a breakaway dunk that sent the Gophers bench jumping up and down while most of the fans inside Assembly Hall were stunned.

Bryant made sure it didn’t last.

“I think maybe they tightened up a little bit defensively, so you’ve got to give them credit,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “I know a lot of people make fun of us, our record, and so on. But these guys, they’re fighting.”

TOPSY-TURVY TURNAROUND

Minnesota opened the game with a 7-0 lead, then fell into a 12-point halftime deficit after Indiana went on a 22-4 run. The Gophers turned things around in the second half and came up short. It’s not the first time this season things have gotten a little topsy-turvy. Indiana rallied from a nine-point first-half deficit for a 70-63 win earlier this month at Minnesota.

THE SHOOTERS

Both teams finished 2 of 18 on 3-pointers, but it was Indiana’s numbers that really turned heads. The Hoosiers set a conference record in league play with 18 3s the last time Minnesota came to Bloomington, and the Hoosiers started the day No. 3 in the nation in 3-point percentage (44.4 percent). Afterward, Cream said he would have liked his team to have taken even more 3s.

SHORT-HANDED

After the game, Pitino noted that his team almost pulled off a major upset on the road despite playing with only seven scholarship players. Senior guard Carlos Morris, a team captain and former starter, missed the game to attend the funeral of a family friend.

TIP-INS

Minnesota: Outscored Indiana 48-42 in the paint and had the same offensive rebound total (10) as Indiana. … In addition to losing 11 in a row, the Gophers have lost three straight in the Indiana series and 15 of their last 16 Big Ten regular season games.

Indiana: Troy Williams also scored 13 points and had six rebounds. … Came into the game with three consecutive home wins by 25 or more points for the first time since 1987-88.

UP NEXT

Minnesota visits Northwestern on Thursday.

Indiana visits Michigan on Tuesday.