Nov. 25, 2006
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Drew Neitzel knew that a 40-13 first half was as good as Michigan State could play. He also knew that the game has two halves.
Despite Neitzel's 21 points and a 32-6 blitz before halftime, the Spartans' 71-53 win over Oakland on Saturday was half magical and half maddening.
"You can't really ask for a better first half than we had," Neitzel said. "But we talked about putting two halves together. Coach made a point of that in the locker room at halftime. It didn't happen."
Instead, it ruined Tom Izzo's day and left him wondering about the character of his team heading into an ACC-Big Ten Challenge matchup at Boston College on Wednesday.
"I should feel really good about the first half," Izzo said. "That was some of our best basketball in the last two years. But basketball isn't a game of halves. We talked for two days about playing the full 40 minutes and playing the game, not the score."
After scoring 30 against Vermont on Tuesday, Neitzel was 8-for-15 from the field and had seven assists for the Spartans (6-1), who shot 59.3 percent before halftime and held the Golden Grizzlies to 22.2 percent accuracy.
"I just finally decided to go back to my old high school days and start dunking everything again," Gray said, recalling a seven-month layoff with two right-foot fractures. "We lost the Maryland game by two, and I had six or seven chances to finish. I've got a lot more to give. But this was a start."
Vova Severovas led Oakland (4-3) with 13 points and six rebounds. Derick Nelson, a Lansing native, had 12 points in his homecoming, while Johnathon Jones of nearby Okemos had nine, all in the second half. That wasn't enough to satisfy Grizzlies coach Greg Kampe.
"We stunk," Kampe said. "We absolutely stunk. They took the first opportunity away, and no one wanted to make a play. I blame us. We were a very poorly coached team. We were awful."
Oakland looked nothing like the team that led No. 4 Pittsburgh by four at halftime of a nine-point loss or like a 14-point winner at Duquesne. But Izzo was every bit as unhappy with his team and himself.
"I haven't done a very good job," Izzo said of producing two halves of effort. "I've tried sitting, kissing and hugging. But if you sign up to come here, you're going to respect the game and be held accountable."
Michigan State led 8-7 when it found the range and denied any decent opportunities with snug defense. A 22-10 rebound advantage in the first 20 minutes added to the cushion.
The Grizzlies trimmed a 27-point deficit to 15 early in the second half, only to see the margin grow again until the closing minutes.
The Spartans finished with edges of 43-28 in rebounds and 19-5 in assists, as Oakland showed the effects of a rugged road swing. The Grizzlies are approaching the middle of a 12-game stretch that has them playing away from home 11 times.
"We felt we were going to win," Kampe said. "We really did. Michigan State is one of the premier programs in the country, and Tom is one of the best coaches ever. But we thought we could play with them. I'm really angry about it."