EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Drew Neitzel and Drew Naymick helped Michigan State draw away from Northwestern, though they knew their team will have to play better next week to draw even in the Big Ten race.
Neitzel scored 13 of his 21 points in less than 4 minutes to help the Spartans (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today/No. 11 AP) rally past Northwestern 70-55 on Saturday night."I just wanted to be patient and not force shots at the beginning," Neitzel said after not shooting for 12:35, then tying his season-high for points. "But that won't work next week at Purdue and Indiana, two hostile environments. I'll have to be more aggressive and carry the team at times."Neitzel's five straight baskets, including three 3-pointers, helped turn a four-point deficit into a 35-29 halftime lead. But no one did more in the team's 18th straight win in Breslin Center than Naymick, who had 10 points, eight rebounds and a career-high six blocks for Michigan State (20-3, 8-2 Big Ten)."When Drew got hot from the field, we started to check guys better," Naymick said of Neitzel, another senior with three home games left in his career. "But we'll need to do that for 40 minutes now. We all understand what happened at Purdue last year and remember the (62-38) beating we took."Raymar Morgan, the Spartans' top scorer, added 10 points but couldn't say enough about Neitzel and Naymick."When Neitzel got hot, it was a huge lift," Morgan said. "But Naymick was really great. He rebounded, blocked shots and got and-ones on offense. He was all over the court."Craig Moore, who had 28 points in the teams' first meeting on Jan. 24, scored 21 for the Wildcats (7-14, 0-10). He finished 7-for-12 from the field and 5-for-9 beyond the arc."Craig has grown up," Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said. "You used to look at his body language and see him whine a little bit. But he isn't doing that now. He had a very good game."Kevin Coble added 14 points and Michael Thompson 10 for the Wildcats, who fell to 0-6 against ranked opponents.Michigan State didn't get any points from its backcourt in the first 10:33 but finished with 41 in reaching 20 wins for the 17th time, including nine of the past 11 years under Tom Izzo.After sending Penn State to the foul line for 51 attempts in a stunning loss last Saturday, the Spartans were whistled for just 16 fouls. The Wildcats' only points from the line in the first 34:42 came after a first-half technical on Izzo.Northwestern didn't score a basket in the first 6:26, but finally took a 13-12 lead on a 3 from Moore. When Coble hit another 3, the Wildcats led 18-14.That was when Neitzel got hot in a stretch reminiscent of last season, when he often took over the game on offense. It was also a dramatic change from his previous two outings, when he was a combined 1-for-11 from long range."Neitzel had a big game on offense," Izzo said. "That one stretch was unbelievable. He hit some shots to save us. But now, as we enter the meat of the schedule, he's going to have to handle physical play on the road."The Wildcats drew to 47-46 on back-to-back 3s from Moore. But Michigan State never surrendered the lead, had a 15-4 spurt and remained in striking distance of the Big Ten leaders.The Spartans shot 51.9 percent from the field to Northwestern's 38.5 and had a 33-26 rebounding edge."Naymick did a great job on the boards," Izzo said. "He had to play on Coble some and come out on more mobile guys. He did a very good job under tough circumstances and played nearly 30 minutes. That's a lot for him."