for this game

Ohio State holds off Neitzel, Michigan State

Jan 28, 2007 - 6:09 AM COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- Fortunately for Ohio State, Drew Neitzel didn't have one last shot left in him.

Freshman center Greg Oden scored 19 points and the fifth-ranked Buckeyes survived a furious rally by Michigan State to post a 66-64 Big Ten Conference victory.

Ohio State (18-3, 6-1 Big Ten) led by 20 points at halftime but watched Michigan State close within a point behind a brilliant second half by Neitzel, who scored 24 of his 29 points after intermission.

Neitzel outscored the Buckeyes in the second half but missed three 3-pointers in the final 2 1/2 minutes that would have put the Spartans ahead.

Michigan State (17-4, 4-3) had a chance to win or tie on its final possession, but Maurice Joseph missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key.

"I have not seen a player catch fire like he did tonight," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said of Neitzel. "It seemed like for a while there anything that he or they threw up went in."

Ohio State won its 22nd straight home game dating to a double-overtime loss to the Spartans on January 15, 2006. In that game, Neitzel was held scoreless for 49 minutes but scored the go-ahead basket and hit two decisive free throws in the final 45 seconds.

This time, he did everything but deliver the game-winner as the Buckeyes broke a string of four straight home losses to the Spartans.

"They have bigger hearts than I thought," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said of his team. "Neitzel made a lot of shots. (Raymar) Morgan deserves a lot of credit to play that many minutes after not practicing.

"I thought our bigs were phenomenal. (Oden) is the best center in the country and I think we did a heck of a job on him."

Behind 11 points apiece from Oden and classmate Daequan Cook, the Buckeyes nearly ran the Spartans out of the gym in the first 20 minutes. Ohio State shot 60 percent (15-of-25) and hit six 3-pointers en route to a 43-23 lead at the break.

"It was the tale of two halves," Matta said. "Give Michigan State credit, they played great basketball and they didn't quit and won't go away."

Neitzel had just five points on 1-of-7 shooting in the opening half but came out on fire in the second half. He scored 12 points in just over seven minutes, including a rare four-point play to cut the deficit to 50-42 with 12:53 left.

"He was tough to guard," Buckeyes guard Jamar Butler said of Neitzel. "I had to come off a lot of screens. We did the best we could, but came out with a win so I'm happy."

Michigan State got within 57-54 with 6:46 to go on a shot from the arc by Neitzel that gave him 22 points in the half.

Neitzel had three free throws to tie the game with 1:41 left but missed the third for a 65-64 deficit. The Spartans couldn't score again.

Butler scored 12 points, including four late free throws for Ohio State, which shot just 24 percent (5-of-21) in the second half.

"We have worked on free throws all week in practice and it paid off in the game," Butler said.

Morgan added 14 points, six rebounds and two blocks for Michigan State, which shot 62.5 percent (15-of-25) after halftime.