Valentine used brother's success at Loyola as inspiration for career night
Denzel Valentine credited the Loyola Ramblers' Sweet Sixteen run as inspiration for his career-high 34 points against Cleveland on Saturday.
The Bulls game was underway by the time Clayton Custer's pullup jumper settled through the rim to beat No. 3 seed Tennessee. But Loyola was on Valentine's mind because his older brother Drew is an assistant coach at the school.
"First quarter, somebody came by the bench and said Loyola won," Valentine said after the game. "That kind of amped me up too because I'm like since he made the Sweet Sixteen, I've got to step my game up. He can't be having a good time and I'm having a bad game. So I had to step my play up a little bit."
Valentine was on fire all night. He scored 16 points in the third quarter and knocked down 8 of his first 9 attempts from 3-point range before missing the last two. The Bulls tied the score with 1:41 left before losing to the Cavs 114-109.
The Valentine brothers are well-versed in March Madness. Denzel played in the NCAA Tournament all four years he played at Michigan State, while Drew made two NCAA appearances as a player at Oakland University. Drew was then a graduate assistant at MSU when the Spartans advanced to the Final Four in 2015, while Denzel was the team's second-leading scorer.
"This time of the month always makes me feel better. I want to play better," Denzel said. "You turn on the TV, hear that March Madness music and you're watching teams play confident on TV. It's like it's that time of the year where it's time to play good basketball. It kind of got me excited today, watching those college games."
This is Drew's first season as an assistant at Loyola, following a stint at Oakland. The brothers remain close, but because of their respective busy schedules, Denzel said he was able to watch just one Loyola game in person late in the season.
"I only saw one live and I told Drew, 'I can see you all making the tournament and making a little run,' because they've got the pieces, they've got the toughness and they've got the experience," he said.
Loyola returned home Sunday afternoon and will move on to the South Regional semifinals Thursday in Atlanta. The Ramblers won both games last weekend, over Miami and Tennessee by hitting go-ahead jumpers in the final four seconds.
Denzel Valentine was asked how much credit he'd give his older brother for the Ramblers' impressive tournament run.
"He works extremely hard," Denzel said. "As soon as they won their first game, I was a little worried because I thought they were going to get satisfied, because they're a midmajor, they won their first game in the tournament. But Drew was like, 'I've been to a Final Four before. This is nothing.' So I think he got those boys focused and locked in."
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Scouting reportBulls vs. New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, 6:30 p.m. Monday
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Outlook: The Knicks (25-45) moved a half-game in front of the Bulls in the standings by defeating Charlotte on Saturday and snapping a nine-game losing streak. So the Bulls (24-45) probably won't bring back any of their injured players for this one. New York has gone 2-13 since losing top scorer Kristaps Porzingis on Feb. 6 with a season-ending knee injury. Against the Hornets, SF Tim Hardaway Jr. led the way with 25 points. C Enes Kanter, SF Michael Beasley and former G-League PG Trey Burke have been the other top scorers this month. The Bulls are 3-0 against the Knicks this season.
Next: Denver Nuggets at the United Center, 7 p.m. Wednesday
-- Mike McGraw