Mike Davis blocks Michigan State's Drew Neitzel. (AP Photo/The Daily Illini, Brad Vest)
March 6, 2008
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- Senior guard Drew Neitzel overcame a slow start to score 17 points and lead No. 17 Michigan State to a 59-51 win Thursday night over Illinois.
Illinois led most of the first half and by as many as 10 points.
But Michigan State (24-7, 12-5 Big Ten) took its first lead with 2:29 left in the first half on a layup by Neitzel, 31-29, and never trailed again.
"I thought we had a pretty good game out of Neitzel considering he was guarded by one of the best defensive players," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said, referring to Illinois guard Chester Frazier.
Spartans center Drew Naymick added 12 points, including a pair of key second-half jump shots that helped bury Illinois.
The Illini (12-18, 4-13) were led by senior center Shaun Pruitt's 13 points and six rebounds.
The teams were tied 31-31 at the half, but the Spartans pulled away early in the second half. The 6-foot-10 Naymick hit back-to-back jump shots to open the half and build a 35-31 lead.
After trailing 23-13 with 9:25 left in the first half, the Spartans outscored the Illini 29-13 over the next 17:42.
Neitzel, who didn't score for the first 6 1/2 minutes, found just enough scoring touch to drive Michigan State. He was a cool 5-of-13 from the field, but three of his field goals were from 3-point range.
Illinois closed within three points with just over seven minutes left in the game. But Neitzel drained a 3 less than 20 seconds later to open the Spartans' lead back to six points.
"It's tough, obviously," Illinois forward Brian Randle said.
Randle, who coach Bruce Weber last week said he expected would miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury, entered the game in the second half. The senior scored seven points in 10 minutes of play.
Michigan State will end the regular season Sunday at Ohio State before the Big Ten tournament starts next week.
The Illini close the regular season at home Saturday against Minnesota.