Dec. 3, 2006
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Drew Neitzel scored 20 points but was mad he didn't get 22 -- not for his own stats, but so backcourt partner Travis Walton could hit double-figure assists for the first time.
That team togetherness and some of the best defense Tom Izzo's program has played in 12 seasons in charge led Michigan State to a coach-pleasing 82-53 win over Bradley on Sunday.
"I told Travis, 'Get me the ball off a screen, and I'll get you that 10th assist,'" Neitzel said. "But I really think this was his best game. He has been spending a lot of time on his shooting.
"And it shows that whatever you put in, you get out of it."
Walton got to switch lockers and move away from Neitzel after showering because the media needed more space for its interviews. Besides his assists, Walton had a career-high 15 points and hit all three of his 3-point tries, two more than he had made all season.
"Defense and rebounding are still what we do here," Walton said of the Spartans (7-2). "But when I hit that first 3, everyone started communicating more. We need to make sure we do the effort things. And it was good to see Coach happy after the game."
If Izzo was thrilled that the extra video study and walkthroughs paid off against a team he was confident he could see again in the NCAA Tournament, Bradley coach Jim Les was just that disappointed.
"I credit Michigan State," Les said of a third-straight loss for the Braves (5-3). "They played extremely well. And we didn't come to play. I apologized to Coach Izzo for not giving him a better game."
Michigan State built on a 29-21 halftime lead with an 8-2 spurt, then reeled off 18 straight points to help build a 35-point advantage over a team that beat DePaul by 20 and lost to Illinois by four.
"Everything went better than I thought it would go," Izzo said. "Don't disregard that team. Look at some of the things the Missouri Valley teams have done this season. We gave this team a tremendous amount of prep time. And it paid off today."
Neitzel had his fourth 20-point effort in the last five games. Freshman Raymar Morgan tied his career high with 18 points, was 8-for-10 at the foul line and grabbed seven rebounds in a game with sensational long-range shooting and several long runs.
Daniel Ruffin had 13 points, including three 3s, for the Braves. Jeremy Crouch added 12 points and three 3s in a performance Les never saw coming.
"I'm just disappointed that Michigan State didn't get a taste of Bradley basketball," Les said. "Our kids usually show a little more fight, fire and intensity. If we miss all our shots, that's fine. I wanted Michigan State to know it was in a back-alley fight."
Michigan State shot 60 percent from the field and 77.8 from 3-point range in the second half, while holding the Braves to 30 percent or less in both halves. The Spartans also had edges of 45-27 in rebounds and 20-10 in assists.