Dec. 23, 2006
Neitzel scored 22 points, his fourth straight game with 20 or more, in Michigan State's 76-64 win over Wisconsin-Green Bay on Saturday afternoon.
The balanced Spartans (12-2) needed 14 points, a career-high 15 rebounds and five assists from Suton plus 11 points, eight assists, no missed shots and zero turnovers from Walton to ground the Phoenix (5-6).
"I thought we had more good looks than good baskets," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "But we still got 21 assists on 29 baskets. I thought Travis really focused in and controlled the game today. When he does that, the ball is in the right people's hands at the right time."
With the ball in Neitzel's hands, good things happened. The Big Ten's No. 4 scorer was 8-for-17 from the field and 4-for-10 from 3-point range. He also had five assists and committed the lone backcourt turnover of his team's seven giveaways.
"We still have a lot of improvement to make to be able to win on the road in league play," Neitzel said. "I hope the Christmas break will rejuvenate us. But the big thing today was that Travis got back to playing his game. He'd been trying to do too much lately."
Walton had one basket, seven points and seven turnovers in Michigan State's last two wins. But with former Spartans guards Steve Smith, Mateen Cleaves and Chris Hill on hand, Walton responded like a member of that club.
"I wasn't thinking as much today," Walton said of his best game at Michigan State. "And seeing Mateen and those other great players gave me energy. I know that they put their heart, their sweat and their tears in this program."
Suton put on a rebounding clinic, grabbing three more boards than ever before and three more than Wisconsin-Green Bay's starting lineup. He also had two blocked shots, twice as many as the visitors.
"I had enough open shots to get 30 points and 15 rebounds," Suton said. "But we're just not consistent right now. We've got to do a better job on defense than we did today if we want to win on the road in the Big Ten."
Mike Schachtner scored 14 points and Ryan Evanochko added 11 for the Phoenix (5-6), who shot 45.3 percent and came within one point of the highest total for a Michigan State opponent this season.
The Spartans led 36-28 at halftime and survived a scare when the Phoenix cut it to 45-43 before building a 15-point lead in the final two minutes.
"I think more than anything it was Michigan State's physical-ness around the basket that really hurt us," Wisconsin-Green Bay coach Tod Kowalczyk said. "I don't think we did a very good job on their post guys. I'm disappointed in how we guarded. That, to me, was the telling story of the game."
Izzo disagreed about his rival coach's assessment of Michigan State's post players.
"I love Tod Kowalczyk, but he must've been frustrated when he said that," Izzo said. "Our bigs have to improve a lot. Even you reporters know that. We're still not the kind of team right now that can go on the road in the Big Ten and win games."
After a visit from Loyola (Md.) next Saturday, the Spartans will have to do exactly that. They open conference play at Iowa and Indiana in the first week of January.