Jan. 20, 2007
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - On "NASCAR Day" at Penn State, Michigan State raced out to a big lead and an easy win.
Drew Neitzel scored 28 points as Michigan State shot a sizzling 68 percent from the floor and played suffocating defense in a 91-64 win over the Nittany Lions on Saturday.
Race cars were stationed around the Bryce Jordan Center concourse in a promotion honoring the popular NASCAR racing series. It was Neitzel who sped around Penn State defenders on the court, slipping around screens, running the baseline and sneaking into the lane for buckets.
The game was well in hand for Michigan State (16-4, 3-2 Big Ten) by the end of the first half, which Neitzel capped with a floater with three seconds left to give the Spartans a 45-23 lead.
"We really got Drew some nice screens and got him the ball where he needed it," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
Penn State (10-8, 1-4) never got closer than 18 after halftime. The Spartans won their first road game of the season and their eighth straight against the Nittany Lions.
Some 13,300 fans -- easily the biggest crowd of the season for Penn State -- went home disappointed. By the end of the afternoon, a small contingent of Michigan State fans were making the most noise.
"We got to win games, win some respect and get fans back in the seats," said forward Jamelle Cornley, who paced Penn State with 21 points and six rebounds.
Nittany Lion coach Ed DeChellis wasn't happy.
"We laid the biggest egg we've laid in several years," he said.
Goran Suton had 16 points and six rebounds for Michigan State while Marquise Gray added 14 points and six boards. Geary Claxton had 11 for Penn State, but the Lions' top scoring option was held to 4-of-12 shooting.
The afternoon belonged to Michigan State -- a nice win for a team that is supposed to be in a rebuilding season. One of the Big Ten's best rebounding teams had a 33-19 advantage on the boards over Penn State.
Neitzel hit shots all over the floor. His deep 3 about three minutes into the first half broke the last tie of the game and gave the Spartans a 7-4 lead. He converted an offensive rebound to put Michigan State ahead 18-9.
Then, with just over eight minutes left in the half, Neitzel slipped across the baseline to the corner for an open 3 after Claxton couldn't fight through a screen, giving the Spartans a 27-13 lead.
Izzo decided at halftime of his team's previous game against Illinois that he was going to pressure more on defense and run more. That philosophy carried over to Saturday's contest and helped beat the Lions' zone.
"Now, guys are in a little better shape. I think the Christmas break helped," Izzo said. "Our bigs, we're moving them around enough where we're not killing anybody, I don't think. We're going to keep running."
Claxton was hounded all day by Michigan State's Raymar Morgan and teammates. Sharpshooter Danny Morrissey was 2-of-4 from 3-point range but was tightly guarded all afternoon. Reserve Mike Walker added nine points on three second-half 3-pointers for the Lions.
Cornley was about the only Lion who had success the entire game against Michigan State with his active play in the paint.
Izzo sounded almost apologetic for the blowout afterward.
"It was just one of those days when we shot well, and I almost feel for Penn State on that because we haven't been doing that and we got a win," he said.
His counterpart, DeChellis, settled in for a long night of watching videotape. It was the Nittany Lions' second straight loss by at least 20 points.
"We played with no zip, no spirit," he said. "I can't tell you how disappointed I am with this."