EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Tom Izzo put his team through a mentally taxing day after one of the worst losses in Michigan State history, and it paid off with one of the program’s best second halves.
”It was pretty bad, but we needed it,” team leader Denzel Valentine said of Sunday’s film sessions and on-court work after a shocking defeat by Texas Southern. ”Sometimes you need a wakeup call.”
Playing with a scratched cornea, a clear lens and goggles, Valentine scored 18 points and keyed a second-half surge to help pull away from The Citadel 82-56 on Monday night.
Matt Costello had 13 points, Marvin Clark Jr. 12 and Gavin Schilling 11 for the balanced Spartans (9-4), who didn’t allow a field goal for 14:13 and had a 37-4 run after trailing by one late in the first half.
Travis Trice contributed 11 of Michigan State’s 23 assists as the winners shot 60.4 percent from the field.
”It has been a weird year already,” Izzo said of an injury-riddled start. ”We hit a perfect storm Saturday. I watched that tape 100 times, and we didn’t play as bad as it looked. We just couldn’t hit any shots.”
P.J. Horgan hit enough to score 19 points and Ashton Moore had 15 for the Bulldogs (4-7).
The Spartans struggled for the first 17 minutes and looked a lot like the team that was stunned by Texas Southern 71-64 in overtime on Saturday.
The last six points of the first half put Michigan State up 32-26 at halftime, and the Spartans added 29 more points before The Citadel’s next basket, a short turnaround jumper by Horgan with 8:48 left.
”They hit the first two 3s of the game that were really well-guarded,” Izzo said. ”I thought, `Here we go again.’ But at the end of the half, we went on a little run. We really pounded that in at the half.”
Valentine had 11 points in the second half and finished 8 for 11 from the field. Costello, Clark and Schilling made 15 of 24 field-goal tries and led the Spartans to a 34-19 rebound advantage.
”That’s a great team we played with a great coach,” Bulldogs coach Chuck Driesell said. ”They’re going to be really good this year. But I was proud of the way we played in the first half.”
The Citadel hit 41.7 percent from the field and outshot Michigan State 38.1 to 36.4 percent from long range. But the Spartans had a 30-3 edge in fast-break points and a 28-11 advantage off the bench.
”We really weren’t that worried in the first half,” Trice said. ”They hit some tough shots.”
Horgan did all he could, going 7 for 10 from the field and leading his team with five rebounds. That wasn’t nearly enough when the track meet began and Michigan State won every race.
The Spartans got 24 points and nine rebounds from Costello and Schilling at the center position, a major area of concern coming into a strange season.
Michigan State is one game below Izzo’s goal with a team he said had endured as much as any group could with injuries to starters Branden Dawson and Bryn Forbes and backups Alvin Ellis III and Javon Bess.
With conference play just eight days away, the question remains whether the Spartans are the team that won the Big Ten tournament and reached the Elite Eight last March or the one that lost to a 1-8 team.
The Citadel: The Bulldogs haven’t beaten a team from a major conference since an 88-87 at South Carolina 26 years ago. But late in the first half, it looked as if that date might be relevant.
Michigan State: After 10 games, the Spartans were leading the nation with 45.6 percent 3-point accuracy. But in the next five halves, they hit just 12 of 48, including 1 for 6 accuracy in the first 20 minutes Monday.
The Citadel hosts Bethune-Cookman on Dec. 30.
Michigan State hosts Maryland on Dec. 30 in the Terrapins’ first Big Ten game.