Dec. 19, 2006
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Drew Neitzel beat the shot clock and heard the alarm clock, while his Michigan State teammates kept dozing on Tuesday.
His 3-point shot in the last millisecond of a key possession tied the game, and his late explosion lifted the sluggish Spartans to a 67-58 win over Belmont.
"I think you'd have to declare us not a very good basketball team," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "We're definitely struggling right now. We found a way to win, thanks to Drew. Thank God he played pretty well."
Neitzel scored 18 of his 20 points in the final 18:33 for the Spartans (11-2). That surge came three days after he hit 21 of his career-high 32 in the last 14:42 to overtake Chicago State.
"I can feel when the team really needs me to score," Neitzel said. "The coaches said at halftime that I needed to be more aggressive. I wanted to get the other guys in the game early and not force shots."
The 6-foot junior guard was 5-for-7 from the field and 3-for-4 from 3-point range early in the second half. It was Neitzel's fifth straight game with at least three 3s.
"I have to demand perfection from him more than any player I've had since I became head coach here," Izzo said of the problems in his 12th season. "Drew has his hands full. He's getting a little ticked off, too. And I really like that about him."
Marquise Gray added 10 points and seven rebounds for Michigan State, which stretched its nonleague home winning streak to 24 games.
Justin Hare scored 15 points for the Bruins (7-4), who were playing their third of seven straight road games.
"I was proud of our team and thought we played hard," Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. "We just had a real difficult time scoring the ball in the second half."
The Spartans scored on a Neitzel to Gray alley-oop three seconds into the game. But Belmont led 32-29 at the half and scored first after the break to grab a five-point lead, its largest of the game.
Michigan State drew even at 38 and took a three-point lead on a bailout 20-footer from Neitzel as the shot clock expired. The Spartans exploded from there and finished a 16-2 run to go up 51-40.
"Drew hit a real big shot to tie it at a critical time. He gave us the momentum we needed to get over the hump," Gray said.
"If I hadn't made that shot to tie it, we still would've won the game," Neitzel said. "We would've found a way to do it. But we didn't play to our potential. We were really bad tonight."
Belmont shot 39.3 percent from the field and became the 12th Michigan State opponent to shoot less than 42 percent. No Spartans opponent has scored more than 65 points in a game this season.
"I just think Neitzel's second half offensively made the difference," Byrd said after his team had a 38-22 edge in points in the paint. "If he scores two, like he did in the first half, I like our chances."
Michigan State shot 40 percent and had 17 turnovers but got some key second chances. The Spartans had a 23-12 edge in rebounds after the break.
"I brought up the crowd a couple of weeks ago, but I think it has been a lot better than our team the last two games," Izzo said. "As my assistants told the team, we played twice as hard in two of our practices this week as we did in this game."