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Michigan State's hot start downs Marquette

Mar 16, 2007 - 7:54 AM WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo still has a thing or two to teach Tom Crean.

Raymar Morgan scored 14 points and Drew Neitzel added 12 as ninth-seeded Michigan State posted a 61-49 victory over No. 9 seed Marquette in the first round of the East Region of the NCAA Tournament.

A matchup to decide the opponent for top-seeded North Carolina in Saturday's second round, the contest's other main storyline featured the meeting between Izzo and Crean, who served under the Michigan State coach for four seasons before taking the Marquette post in 1999.

This was the first matchup between the two coaches, who have gone to a combined five Final Fours since 1999.

"It was one of the more difficult games I have (coached)," Izzo said. "We did a heckuva job defensively, in trying to stop their penetration. It was a great team effort. I am just happy we won."

Unfortunately for Crean, his team was not at full strength. The Golden Eagles played without second-leading scorer Jerel McNeal because of a thumb injury that also forced him to miss the Big East Conference tournament.

Without McNeal, Marquette struggled offensively, missing its first eight shots to fall behind 14-0 with 10:46 remaining. The Golden Eagles did not record their first field until David Cubillan's 3-pointer 25 seconds later.

"It was obvious from the jump. We weren't really knocking down our shots early on," Golden Eagles leading scorer Dominic James said. "We dug ourselves a hole but we were still playing pretty well on defense. Our shots weren't falling but we eventually started getting back in the game."

Behind eight first-half points by Morgan, the Spartans (23-11) charged to a 30-18 lead at the half. They shot 61 percent (14-of-23) in the opening 30 minutes en route to improving to 7-3 in first-round games under Izzo.

Michigan State also was bitten by injury as reserve center Idong Ibok suffered a hyperextended left elbow after falling awkwardly to the ground with just over 6 1/2 minutes left in the first half.

Despite the absence of Ibok, the Spartans more than held their own inside, finishing with a 28-10 advantage in points in the paint and just a 29-28 deficit in rebounding.

Morgan grabbed nine rebounds and Neitzel had five boards and handed out five assists.

The point guard Neitzel also hit two 3-pointers and reached 1,000 points for his career, never realizing that he accomplished the feat.

"I didn't know that actually," Neitzel said after being informed. "I don't know what to say. I don't know how many people at Michigan State have scored 1,000 points but it's a good honor."

Along with the milestone, Neitzel hit a highlight-reel shot when his jumper from the right sideline bounced off the top corner of the backboard before going in for a 52-36 lead with 6:39 remaining.

"That might have been one of the craziest shots that I've ever made in my entire basketball career," he said.

James scored 18 points on 6-of-16 shooting for Marquette (24-10), which went 21 percent (4-of-19) in the first half and did not record its first two-point basket until 18:15 left in the second half.

"I thought Michigan State did a great job especially defensively," Crean said. "I thought so much of this game was outside of the initial shots that they hit where we struggled and missed. They executed their game plan defensively. We didn't execute ours."

Wesley Matthews scored 10 points but also committed six of the Golden Eagles' 15 turnovers, leading to 15 points for the Spartans.

    --- --- -----
    MICHIGAN ST 30 31 61
    MARQUETTE 18 31 49 FINAL

    Mar 15 9:35 PM


    Mar 15 8:12 PM
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    Michigan State vs. MarquetteMar 15 8:12 PM