Boise St.-Michigan St. Preview
With Denzel Valentine filling out the stat sheet in historic fashion, Michigan State is showing no weaknesses as it tries to get the most of out a business trip to California.
Coach Tom Izzo, however, is quick to warn the Spartans about the dangers that lie ahead.
After recording a couple of milestones in an impressive opener, No. 3 Michigan State hopes to take another step toward a tournament championship Friday when it takes on Boise State in the second round of the Wooden Legacy on the campus of Cal State Fullerton.
It wasn't long ago when Valentine became the fourth Spartan to record a triple-double with 29 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists in a 79-73 win over No. 4 Kansas in Chicago on Nov 17.
While playing in front of one of those former stars, the senior guard had 29 points, 11 boards and 10 assists in Thursday's 99-68 first-round win over Boston College. He joined Magic Johnson (eight) and Draymond Green (three) as the school's only players to accomplish that feat more than once.
Green, who now plays for Golden State, attended the contest on his way to Phoenix for the Warriors' next game and even received a high-five from Valentine after a dunk.
"(Green and Valentine are) similar players in these respects: unselfishness, winning more than focusing on individual stats, they're both great leaders," said Izzo after his 500th career win.
The Spartans (5-0) reached season highs in points, assists (28), field-goal percentage (62.7) and 3-point percentage (11 for 21) while committing only seven turnovers. They rank near the top among Big Ten teams with 88.2 points, 52.6 percent shooting and a 42.6 mark from beyond the arc.
Michigan State has been nearly as impressive defensively, limiting opponents to 61.4 points and a 36.9 field-goal percentage - including just 27.6 percent from 3-point range. Boston College, however, became the first opponent to shoot better than 37 percent against the Spartans at 47.3.
Although Eagles coach Jimmy Christian referred to Michigan State as the best team in the country, Izzo isn't quite ready to agree with that assessment just five games into the season.
"We're playing good right now, and I told my guys we'll see how we handle that early success," he said. "Now we're going from hunting to being hunted. Teams are going to give us their best game. What impresses me is that I believe we still have a higher ceiling that we can reach."
Boise State (3-2) hopes to give the Spartans its best shot after opening the tournament with a 71-64 victory over UC Irvine on Thursday. Anthony Drmic led the way with 21 points, while Nick Duncan scored 14 and Chandler Hutchinson added 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Drmic seemed to be fine after missing Monday's 100-53 win over NAIA Concordia due to a knee injury. The senior swingman is averaging 18.8 points while hitting 15 of 33 (45.5) from beyond the arc.
"The rest was nice," Drmic said. "It was good for my knee to get those couple days off."
The Broncos have lived and died from the 3-point line, shooting 35 for 81 (43.2 percent) in victories and 18 of 56 (32.1) in their defeats. Duncan hit four 3s as they went 11 for 28 against the Anteaters.
Boise State has dropped two all-time meetings, most recently a 74-70 road loss in November 2012.