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Neitzel, Michigan State hold off Missouri

Nov 20, 2007 - 6:39 AM COLUMBIA, Missouri (Ticker) -- It must have felt like the start of January for Drew Neitzel and Michigan State.

Neitzel converted two free throws with less than three seconds remaining as the No. 11 Spartans held on for an 86-83 victory over Missouri in the semifinals of the CBE Classic on Monday.

In a contest that had the feeling of a crucial Big Ten Conference battle, Michigan State (3-0) saw a 16-point lead from the first half nearly disappear as Missouri used the support of a very favorable crowd to drive its comeback.

"We were just not ready for that kind of pressure and intensity," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "We did a good job early, but did a poor job of handling the pressure after that."

Holding a 46-30 advantage after Travis Walton converted two free throws with 6:21 left in the opening half, the Spartans needed a timely 3-pointer by Neitzel and two big baskets from Goran Suton in the closing moments to set up a matchup with UCLA in the title game of this early-season event on Tuesday.

Behind the inspired play of junior forward DeMarre Carroll, the Tigers (3-1) managed to close within a point twice but could not pull even, eventually failing to match last season's 4-0 start to the season.

"We saw the big crowd and we had jitters early," Carroll said. "Once we got focused, we turned the game around. We just fell a little short."

After Carroll contributed eight points on Missouri's 10-4 run midway through the second half, Stefhon Hannah hit a 3-pointer to slice the deficit to 72-71 with 4:46 remaining.

However, Neitzel connected on his first basket of the second half over two minutes later from the arc and Suton added two inside baskets over the final 80 seconds to help hold off the Tigers.

"In the second half, they tried to keep the ball out of my hands," said Neitzel, who finished 6-of-10 from the field but just 1-of-4 in the second half. "You don't see that (type of defense) everyday. It is hard to duplicate in practice."

A layup by Keon Lawrence closed Missouri within 82-80 with 21 seconds left, but Suton responded with a driving layup for a four-point edge.

Hannah, who finished with five 3-pointers, got a shot from the arc to go down thanks to a favorable bounce to make it 84-83 with five seconds left.

Neitzel was fouled and calmly converted both of his free throws to seal the win for the Spartans. The senior guard finished with 21 points.

Raymar Morgan had 19 points and Suton added 17 for Michigan State, which converted 26-of-31 (83.9 percent) of its free throws.

Hannah netted 20 points and Carroll finished with all 14 of his points and six of seven rebounds in the second half.