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Neitzel leads Michigan State past Belmont

Dec 20, 2006 - 5:26 AM EAST LANSING, Michigan (Ticker) -- Drew Neitzel continues to come through in the clutch for Michigan State.

Neitzel scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half as No. 25 Michigan State turned back upset-minded Belmont with a 67-58 victory.

With the Spartans trailing, 38-35, with 16 1/2 minutes to play, Neitzel sparked a 16-2 run to put his team ahead for good, 51-40, with 7:00 left.

A 6-foot junior guard, Neitzel had 11 points in the spurt, including three 3-pointers as Michigan State (11-2) extended its home unbeaten streak to 24 games against non-conference opponents.

On Saturday, Neitzel scored 21 of his career-high 32 points after intermission to carry Michigan State to a 69-61 victory over Chicago State.

"We are definitely struggling," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "We found a way to win thanks to Drew, but we really are not doing a lot of things very well."

Belmont (7-4) could get no closer than seven points on two occasions, that last on a jumper by Justin Hare with 40 seconds left. Hare scored 15 points to lead the Bruins, who were just 5-of-26 from the arc.

Josh Goodwin of Belmont led the nation in 3-point shooting percentage last season, but he finished with five points and was only 1-of-4 from the arc.

The dismal shooting allow Michigan State to survive 17 turnovers and getting outscored, 38-22, in the paint.

"To turn the ball over that many times against that team is not very good," Izzo said. "The rebounding hasn't been very good and the big guys aren't guarding very good and Travis (Walton) is struggling a little bit, so I think we covered everything but Drew.

"He played pretty well and he has so much pressure on him."

The Spartans made just 4-of-11 3-pointers but three were by Neitzel in the second half, putting him within five of surpassing last season's entire total.

Neitzel's first 3-pointer, which just beat the shot clock with 12 1/2 minutes left, put Michigan State ahead to stay, 41-38.

"What was that, 36 seconds into the shot clock," Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. "It was a huge basket but I don't know how players react to that psychologically.

"I thought we defended pretty darn well and think in general his (Neitzel's) second half offensively made the difference and their defense in the second half. But if (Neitzel) scores two like he did in the second half, I like out chances."

Marquise Gray scored 10 points for Michigan State, which was 21-of-29 at the line as opposed to 5-of-11 for Belmont.

"At least we found a way to win and that's the mark of a decent team," Izzo said. "But it really has been disappointing the last few games how we responded."

    --- --- -----
    BELMONT 32 26 58
    MICHIGAN ST (25) 29 38 67 FINAL

    Dec 19 9:03 PM

    BELMONT 32

    Dec 19 7:48 PM