Friday , Mar , 16 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Spartans top shorthanded Marquette

Winston-Salem, NC (Sports Network) – Raymar Morgan led a balanced Michigan
State attack with 14 points and nine rebounds as the Spartans bested
Marquette, 61-49, in the opening round of the East Region of the NCAA
Tournament at Joel Coliseum.

Drew Neitzel added 12 points, five rebounds and five assists for the ninth-
seeded Spartans (23-11), who were coming off a 70-57 loss at the hands of
Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament. Marquise Gray also chipped in with 12
points and five boards.

Michigan State will now move on to face top-seeded North Carolina in
Saturday’s second round.

“I think our coaching staff did a great job of preparing us through scouting,”
said Neitzel. “We knew all of their sets. It was team defense. It wasn’t just
one-on-one. We really shrunk the gaps and forced them to take outside shots,
even their best shooters. We forced their touches on the perimeter.”

Dominic James scored a game-high 18 points but was just 6-of-16 from the floor
for the eighth-seeded Golden Eagles (24-10), who shot a miserable 32 percent
in the game. Wesley Matthews finished with 10 points on 2-of-9 shooting.

The game featured two of the more interesting subplots in the tourney.
Marquette head coach Tom Crean was Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo’s top
assistant from 1995 through 1999.

“It was one of the more difficult games I have played,” said Izzo. “It was a
very difficult prep week for me, and yet I learned that you are going to have
to play your friends once in a while. I thought we had to get back to our
identity. We did a heck of a job defensively and they made some big shots at
the end. I thought our defense, in trying to stop that penetration; there were
five guys who did it. It was a great team effort. I am just happy we won.”

Also, Marquette guard Jerel McNeal, a second team all-conference performer and
the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, remained out with a thumb injury.

The Golden Eagles certainly missed McNeal at the outset and failed to score
until 9:40 had elapsed. David Cubillan’s three finally got Marquette on the
board and stemmed a 14-0 Michigan State run to start the game.

But, the Spartans weren’t exactly lighting up the offensive end themselves and
allowed Marquette to draw within five, 20-15, when James drained a three with
a little over six minutes left before intermission.

The Golden Eagles just couldn’t sustain anything, however, and went the entire
first half without recording a two-point basket.

The Spartans finished the frame with a 10-3 burst to re-establish a double-
digit cushion. Travis Walton’s jumper capped the scoring in the stanza with
Michigan State on top, 30-18.

Gray opened the second half with a slam and the Spartans continued to pull
away from there. Goran Suton’s layup, with 10:38 left, gave Michigan State its
first 20-point cushion, 47-27.

Marquette had one last gasp in them over the next several minutes. James’ long
three from the top of the circle made it a 54-41 game with 4:09 left.

Both teams went cold from there, however, and there was no scoring until
Lazar Hayward connected on a layup with under a minute left.

Marquette began to foul but the Spartans made enough free throws in the final
minute to seal things.

“I thought Michigan State did a great job especially defensively,” said Crean.
“I think 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. The credit goes to them, but at the same time we have to
share in the blame for why we didn’t win.”

Game Notes

Michigan State’s Idong Ibok left in the first half after dislocating his
elbow and will miss the rest of the tourney…The Spartans dominated inside
during the first half with a 20-0 points in the paint edge…Michigan State is
in the NCAA Tournament for the 10th straight year, the second-longest streak
in Big Ten history…Izzo now has a gaudy 24-8 all-time NCAA Tournament
record. Meanwhile, the Spartans own a 41-19 mark at the “Big Dance”, including
six Final Four appearances and a pair of national championships…Marquette
was making its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance and 25th trip
overall. The program is now 32-26 all-time at this event, including 14-11 in
first round games…Michigan State is now 31-23 in the all-time series over
Marquette, but this was the first time the two teams have met since
1959…Neitzel’s 12 points gave him 1,007 for his career.