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Michigan State wears down cold-shooting Temple

Mar 20, 2008 - 9:59 PM DENVER (Ticker) -- Michigan State gave Temple a taste of the stifling defense it has used to frustrate Big Ten Conference opponents for years.

The fifth-seeded Spartans held Dionte Christmas, Temple's leading scorer, to just three points Thursday and coasted to a 72-61 victory over the 12th-seeded Owls in a South Region first-round contest.

Michigan State will face fourth-seeded Pittsburgh in the second round on Saturday. The Panthers advanced with a 82-63 win over Oral Roberts later Thursday.

"I think he's a heck of a player," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said of Christmas. "But we did a heck of a job on him."

Christmas came into the contest averaging 20 points and failed to score double figures in only one of Temple's 33 games this season. He poured in 22 points in the Owls' 69-64 win over St. Joseph's in the Atlantic 10 Conference championship game.

Mark Tyndale paced Temple with 16 points and Ryan Brooks added 14 off the bench. But Michigan State keyed on Christmas, and he finished just 1-of-12 from the field, including 0-for-7 from 3-point range.

Raymar Morgan scored 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting for the Spartans and also had the task of guarding Christmas.

"I just tried to press up on him a little bit - keep a hand in his face," Morgan said. "He's a great shooter. He can shoot from deep."

Overall, Temple, which was making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001, shot just 37.5 percent (21-of-56) from the field and trailed by as many as 19 points midway throughout the first half.

"They were very physical," Christmas said of the Spartans. "That was one of the most physical teams I have ever played against. I don't think they did anything special."

Izzo also assigned guards Travis Walton and Drew Neitzel to shut down Christmas. He called it the "six-eye" defense, borrowed from the Detroit Pistons.

"The six-eye - a takeoff of the "'Jordan Rules'," Izzo said. "The Pistons did such a good job of kind of putting a guy on him. They had their own rules. It was just something we stole from somebody. We did steal that from the Pistons. We've used it for three or four years on prolific scorers that also are good penetrators."

Both teams started slowly and the Owls were able to stay even with the Spartans through the first 11 1/2 minutes. But freshman Durrell Summers' jumper snapped a 15-15 tie with 8:28 remaining in the first half, giving Michigan State the lead for good and triggering a 15-2 spurt.

The Spartans took a 35-26 halftime lead, then held Temple scoreless for the first 3 1/2 minutes of the second half. Michigan State pushed its advantage to 58-39 on Neitzel's dunk.

"I think my teammates did a great job of getting me the ball, places where I could create and make plays," Morgan said.

In a stretch spanning the final nine minutes of the first half and first eight minutes of the second half, the Spartans surrendered only 15 points.

"They're really good at keeping you in front of them," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said of the Spartans. "There wasn't a lot of drive and kick opportunities for us today."

Temple got no closer than 66-56 on Tyndale's two free throws with 3:01 remaining.

Freshman Chris Allen scored 12 points off the bench and Drew Naymick added 10 for Michigan State, which shot 48 percent (26-of-54).

Neitzel was held to only five points - nine below his average - but the balanced Spartans wore down the Owls with their depth.

"It's just been a great team effort," Neitzel said. "If I'm having a bad game, somebody, a lot of times, is picking up the slack. I think that's a bonus and something that can help us make a deep run in this tournament."

Michigan State is making its 11th straight tournament appearance but it has not reached the regional semifinals since 2005.

The Owls completed their second season under Dunphy, who replaced John Chaney in 2006. Last season, Temple finished 12-18 and started this season 6-8.

"We had a terrific basketball season," Dunphy said. "We're going to celebrate that. We were disappointed today. We didn't play our best basketball."