Neitzel's career effort lifts Michigan St.Dec 17, 2006 - 4:04 AM EAST LANSING, Michigan (Ticker) -- Drew Neitzel has had very little trouble putting the team on his back.
Neitzel scored 21 of his career-high 32 points in the second half as 23rd-ranked Michigan State held off an upset bid by Chicago State with a 69-61 victory.
The point guard on a Spartans' team last season that included three now-departed players in Maurice Ager, Paul Davis and Shannon Brown that averaged at least 17 points, Neitzel has had very few problems picking up the scoring slack.
A career 5.9 scorer entering the season, Neitzel is averaging 18.6 points on 46 percent shooting, including 39-of-91 (43 percent) on 3-pointers. With eight more baskets from the arc, he will eclipse last season's total.
Neitzel's scoring proved timely, collecting five straight points after the Cougars put together a 12-5 spurt to grab a 44-43 lead with 9:22 to play. The junior guard hit a jumper eight seconds after the loss of the lead and added one of his six 3-pointers, making it 48-44 with 8:07 remaining.
"I just tried to do what it took to help my team win," Neitzel said. "We weren't clicking offensively and they were putting some pressure on us so I just tried to take the game over a little bit and my shots were falling."
It was the fourth time Neitzel had made at least four 3-pointers, including a career-high seven in a 66-46 win over Vermont on November 21.
Goran Suton added two layups over the next 2 1/2 minutes as Michigan State went ahead, 52-44, with 5:23 to play.
However, Chicago State (4-9) refused to fade away, converting four straight free throws to close within 52-48 with 4:51 left.
"I told my assistants the other day that if we found a way to win by one, I'd be happy," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "I definitely knew Chicago State was a better team in some ways than some of the teams we've played, but I wasn't going to sell that to you (the media) and I wasn't going to sell that to my players. But I said that I'd be happy if we won by one, and in a way I guess I'm happy that we won."
Neitzel, who finished 6-of-12 from the arc, hit a 3-pointer from the right corner and added another from the left for a 59-50 advantage with 3:47 to play.
Despite his outstanding second half, Neitzel found himself not starting after intermission along with Travis Walton as Izzo was bothered with the guards' play in the opening 20 minutes.
"I'm just very disappointed in our effort," Izzo said. "If you ask me, it was a very poorly played game, other parts weren't very well done, and most of all, it was a very poorly coached game, and that's my fault and my issue.
"I'm definitely going to make sure that everybody understands that this team has a long way to go. I will put up with a lot of stuff, but the effort-related things I'm not going to put up with any more. If that means we lose a game, then saddle up and get ready for the talk shows and the papers to write a lot of nasty things because we're going to lose a game."
Neitzel actually wasn't surprised by the move, accepting it wholeheartedly.
"Coach has done that a lot in the past and it's worked so I wasn't surprised," he said. "Coach has to do what he has to do to get us playing as a team collectively and that's what he felt like he had to do. I'm with him 100 percent and if that's what he had to do, then I'm all for it."
Freshman Isaiah Dahlman, who was making his first start, scored a season-high 11 points for the Spartans (10-2), who captured their 23rd consecutive home win against a non-conference opponent.
Royce Parran scored 20 points and David Holston 18 for the Cougars, who lost for the fifth time in their last six road games.
Chicago State did have to deal with an unpleasant moment at the half, as senior forward Cam-Ron Clay attempted to get into a physical confrontation with coach Kevin Jones.
"With me, his status is that he is no longer a part of this team," Jones said. "I've had problems with him even last year. I gave him a chance to come back. He had a problem with constructive criticism. I didn't even get a chance to criticize him in the locker room. I was going to tell him what he needed to do to make an adjustment and he got mad and said (expletive) me and stood up and took his shirt off and wanted to fight.
"If he wants to fight, he needs to go back into the Army. We could use a few good men, so I don't know what his problem is but we're going to make sure that doesn't happen again because he is no longer a part of our team. We're here to play basketball and have fun. To have that kind of disruption at halftime is uncalled for."
Clay, who did not accompany the team back to the bench for the second half, finished without a point on 0-of-1 shooting in eight minutes. He was the team's fourth-leading scorer at 11.9 points.
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