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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

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Harris, Valentine stand out in win over No. 7 Kansas


Freshman guard Denzel Valentine jumps for an alley-oop but was unable to score Nov. 2, 2012, at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated St. Cloud State 62-49 in the second and final exhibition game of the season. Adam Toolin/The State News

Their college careers might only be two games old, but freshman guards Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine seemed like season veterans during No. 21 MSU’s 67-64 victory over No. 7 Kansas.

Harris, who controlled the first half with 11 points, said goodbye to the jitters that surrounded him during last week’s 66-62 loss against UConn. Harris also lived up to his words of wisdom, explaining how important it is for MSU (1-1) to get off to a hot start against Kansas (1-1).

“Last game, we came out slow and sluggish. This time we have to come out with a lot of energy,” Harris said.

In their loss at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Harris scored 11 points on four-for-13 shooting. Against Kansas, Harris filled up the net by giving MSU 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

One of the marquee plays in Harris’s big night was scoring back-to-back shots to close MSU’s deficit to 58-59 with four minutes remaining in the game, which kick-started a key 8-0 run late in the game.

Valentine, who was relied on to fill in for injured sophomore guard Travis Trice, stepped up to the plate with his game-high four assists.

The 6-foot-5 guard picked up a crucial 24 minutes off the bench, compared to Harris’ 35. Prior to the game, head coach Tom Izzo stated that a “concern” was putting too many minutes on the two during their loss to UConn.

One freshman who was a possibility to play was forward Matt Costello, who Izzo said would possibly have been used to shut down Kansas’ interior threat. The former Michigan Mr. Basketball Award winner did not see any action and has missed all four games this year due to a bruised tailbone.

The Spartans’ next game is in the Spartan Showcase against Texas Southern, with tipoff at 12 p.m. Sunday in Breslin Center.

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