Louisville and Michigan State met Wednesday night as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. This isn’t the first time the two teams have met recently, as they faced off last season in the Elite 8. Sparty came through in overtime last March after Mangok Mathiang missed a game clinching free throw. Tonight, Louisville came to play as some people were questioning how good they actually were. But Michigan State threw the last punch as they edged the Cardinals 71-67 in a thriller.
Damion Lee - Denzel Valentine Was As Good As Expected
Damion Lee is a fifth year transfer from Drexel who averaged about 21 PPG. Not many people thought his scoring could translate against elite competition, but he proved those people wrong tonight. He scored 23 points against the leading candidate for POTY Denzel Valentine. But it was Valentine who was making the big shots when late and hitting clutch free throws at the end of the game. He scored 27 points, threw 7 assists, and grabbed 5 boards.
Big Lead Blown By Cardinals
The beginning of the game was all Louisville. They led by as much as 13 points in the first half as Trey Lewis and Lee were unstoppable on the offensive side of the ball. Every time Sparty had an answer, the Cardinals slung right back.
The Cardinals could have easily made the lead 20 or more points, but it was missed free throws and poor shot selections that made the lead smaller than it could have been. The officiating wasn’t on the Cardinals side either as there was some questionable calls. Regardless of the officiating, the Cardinals still blew a lead that should have been kept if it wasn’t for pointless mistakes.
Late Game Heroics
Louisville played well in the second half, until Michigan State decided enough was enough. Valentine and Bryn Forbes decided to hit a couple threes to make the game interesting. The Cardinals made a questionable decision to foul Valentine when UofL was down by 2 in the last minute of the game. Their whole game plan was to have someone other than Valentine beat them, but he was the one who ultimately put them away. Deyonta Davis also had an alley-oop dunk and connected with the shot in the lane to put the Spartans up 65-58 with little under 2 minutes remaining. The Cards could not mount the comeback as the Breslin Center of East Lansing roared.
Louisville - Michigan State should now be considered a rivalry in the world of college basketball. They have met in the tournament numerous times, and now played another terrific game. Can this game be played every year from now on? For now, Michigan State prevailed as one of the top three teams in the country, and Valentine still looks like the superstar that blasted Kansas in the beginning of the season.
Louisville will get an easier test against Grand Canyon on Saturday, while MSU battles 2-4 Binghamton on the same day.