Dec. 8, 2007
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - After watching a listless team in the first half, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was worried he had a labor situation on his hands.
His ninth-ranked Spartans trailed No. 20 Brigham Young by 10 points and didn't seem all that concerned.
"I told them at halftime, they must have gone on strike on me," Izzo said. "They did nothing. But that second half, I thought we were back to playing like we did."
Were they ever.
The Spartans (8-1) quickly ate up the halftime deficit and stifled the Cougars throughout the second half in a 68-61 victory Saturday.
After shooting 29 percent in the first half, the Spartans were 16-for-24 from the field in the second and wore down the Cougars (7-2) with a physical pounding inside.
"We felt we were fortunate to be down only 10 coming in here at halftime," Neitzel said. "We just brought a new attitude out in the second half. That's all it was - a different mind-set."
The Spartans opened the second half with a 14-3 run, showing speed they didn't have in an uninspired first half, and pulled away down the stretch on some clutch shooting by Neitzel.
Trent Plaisted scored 19 points and Sam Burgess added 15 for BYU, which couldn't overcome poor shooting and the Spartans' quickness in the second half.
"Defensively they were a lot more physical in the second half with us. It was a lot tougher to get a catch. Shots were a little bit more contested," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "It seemed to me that we were in a little bit too big of a hurry and that caused us to rush things a little bit."
The Spartans outrebounded the Cougars 37-29 and Travis Walton made six straight free throws in the final 43 seconds to seal it.
BYU has won 35 straight at the Marriott Center in Provo, but this game was played in Salt Lake City at EnergySolutions Arena, home of the Utah Jazz. The Cougars had the crowd behind them, but it wasn't enough to throw the Spartans out of synch.
It was BYU's third game against a top 10 opponent this season and the Cougars fell to 1-2 in them. The Cougars played top-ranked North Carolina close on Nov. 24, but lost by 10 one day after they beat then-No. 6 Louisville 78-76.
"I think it's a very slim margin," Plaisted said. "But that being said, they won the game and we didn't."
Michigan State led 57-56 when Neitzel pulled up from just inside the arc for a jumper that put the Spartans up 59-56, then after a defensive stop and a timeout, Michigan State went back to Neitzel for a 3-pointer that increased the lead to 62-56 with about 2:20 left.
Lee Cummard made two free throws to get BYU within four points, but the Spartans sealed it from the free throw line and held the Cougars to just one field goal the rest of the way. By the time Burgess hit a 3-pointer with 21 seconds left, Michigan State still led 66-61 and it was too late for BYU to complete a comeback.
BYU was 7-for-23 from the field in the second half and had only two field goals in the first nine minutes. The Cougars went 8-for-13 from the free throw line over the last 20 minutes and weren't able to build on what few leads they had.
"We were a step slow, weren't playing as hard as we could and just had to make some adjustments," Neitzel said.
After trailing 35-25 at halftime, the Spartans picked up the pace in the second half and opened with a 14-3 run.
Suton made a layup to get Michigan State within 38-34 with 17:10 left in the game, then the Spartans forced a turnover and Neitzel hit his second 3-pointer of the short half to cut the lead to 38-37. After a foul on Cummard under the basket, Suton banked in a hook to give the Spartans their first lead since 2-0.
The first half was the opposite for Michigan State.
The Cougars shut down the inside early and the Spartans were unable to get much of a rhythm going. Michigan State missed 15 of its first 20 shots and had five turnovers in the first 5 minutes.
The Spartans were forced to shoot from the outside and were 10-for-34 from the field, but atoned slightly by outrebounding BYU 23-14. The Spartans had 15 offensive rebounds and converted 17 points off them.