Asked about the Sweet 16 and what it means to Michigan State, sophomore guard Denzel Valentine used the word “revenge.”

He and the Spartans had just finished an 80-73 win Saturday over Harvard to reach the East Regional semifinals and didn’t know at the time they’d be playing Virginia. But MSU is 3-0 all-time against Virginia, the last meeting coming in 2002, and routed Memphis — the team the Cavaliers handled Sunday to reach the Sweet 16 — in last year’s tournament.

So … revenge on New York’s Madison Square Garden?

“Yeah,” Valentine said. “Revenge on a building.”

The No. 4 seed Spartans (28-8) certainly have struggled in the famed arena, which will house their meeting with the No. 1 seed Cavaliers (30-6) at about 9:57 p.m. Friday, after No. 3 seed Iowa State and No. 7 seed Connecticut play in the other semifinal. The winners will play Sunday for a trip to the Final Four in Arlington, Texas.

MSU is 2-10 all-time at Madison Square Garden, 2-6 under Tom Izzo. A 64-60 loss to Georgetown there on Feb. 1 was one of the Spartans’ worst performances of the season.

The Spartans’ last win there came against Texas and freshman Kevin Durant in 2006, preceded by a 2005 win over Boston College. More recently, MSU lost a 74-69 game to Duke in 2011 and was thumped, 72-58, by Syracuse in 2010.

Certainly, MSU would like to change that history in its 12th Sweet 16 in 17 years and reach its seventh Final Four in the past 16. And that won’t have much to do with the building.

The Spartans will have to execute extremely well in the halfcourt against one of the best defensive teams in the country. Resurgent Virginia, coached by Tony Bennett, won the ACC with that defense and a balanced offense featuring wings Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon, plus athletic forward Akil Mitchell.

Izzo’s team was able to run at will in wins over Delaware and Harvard, scoring a combined 173 points. Virginia prefers a slow pace and can frustrate opponents into impatience. In those two victories, MSU had issues with fouling and turnovers that made both more challenging than they should have been.

“It’s going to be a good learning thing, I think we’re going to be able to get a lot of coaching points in … as we start to work on our next opponent, and it will be really good when you can do it at this time of year — it will actually be kind of fun,” Izzo said after the win over Harvard. “Usually this time of year you’re just massaging everybody. We’re still working.”