Dec. 30, 2006
With top scorer Drew Neitzel bothered by a box-and-one defense, Suton and Gray had career highs with 27 and 19 points, respectively, in the Spartans' 74-61 win over Loyola of Maryland on Saturday.
"I give Loyola credit for doing what good coaches do," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "They played the percentages, put a box-and-one on Drew and made somebody else beat them."
Suton had 18 points and was 7-for-9 from the field in the second half for the Spartans (13-2), who set a school record for nonconference victories.
"I don't think I had 27 in high school," Suton said. "It feels pretty good, but I still missed some easy shots -- and-ones that I should've made. It's just good to be able to take some pressure off the guards."
Gray had 16 points and eight rebounds in just 12 minutes of the first half. He finished with 11 boards to record his third double-double in five weeks.
"I came out really aggressive on offense," Gray said. "I wasn't as good on defense in the first half. And coach let me know that. But we had to help Drew. He has carried us all year."
Neitzel scored 10 points, 8.9 below his average, but tied his career-high with 12 assists and had just one turnover.
"I hadn't shot well all week in practice, so I tried to find the other guys," Neitzel said. "I've never had that assist/turnover ratio, not even on the playground. I don't pass it very often there."
Gerald Brown didn't pass up any shots and scored 25 points for the Greyhounds (5-6). The transfer from Providence was 13-for-17 from the foul line but only 5-for-17 from the field.
"Gerald didn't practice yesterday," Loyola coach and former Maryland assistant Jimmy Patsos said. "But I think Tom's a better coach than I am. He makes better adjustments at halftime and wears you down. I told Gray he reminded me of (NBA first-rounder) Chris Wilcox and to keep working."
The Greyhounds led 34-31 in the final minute of the first half, only to see the Spartans score five quick points on a three-point play by Suton and a last-second basket by Isaiah Dahlman.
Michigan State built a 17-point lead midway through the second half, then saw that cushion trimmed to eight.
"I guess I'm glad the non-conference season is over," Izzo said. "It has been difficult to figure out where this team is. We're supposed to be growing. And I'm not sure we've done a great job of that. But I know this team isn't ready to win in the Big Ten the way we've played the last four or five games, especially on the road."
Loyola matched the Spartans with 37 rebounds but shot 35.3 percent and helped Michigan State finish November and December without allowing more than 65 points.
"The fact that we rebounded even with them is one of the greatest victories in my three years as a head coach," Patsos said. "Tom Izzo is the best rebounding coach in America."