Guards lift Michigan State over Pitt

  • Associated Press
  • Saturday, March 22, 2008 11:25pm
  • SportsSports

DENVER — All this talk about brawn and brute force gets old. Drew Neitzel and Kalin Lucas let everyone know these Michigan State guys can dribble and shoot it, too.

The Spartans guards went on a late ballhandling and scoring spree to help Michigan State pull away from Pittsburgh for a 65-54 victory Saturday. Lucas and Neitzel combined for 21 of the final 25 points for the fifth-seeded Spartans to help them win a battle of the bullies in a rough-and-tumble game. The 11-point margin wasn’t indicative of how close this game was for a long time.

Neitzel led the Spartans with 21 points, and Lucas finished with 19. Levance Fields had 19 points for fourth-seeded Pitt (27-10), which had won six straight.

With his team leading by one, Neitzel scored Michigan State’s next eight points — including an amazing shake-and-bake move to get shooting room in front of Ronald Ramon — to give the Spartans (27-8) a five-point lead with 4 minutes to play.

“I just wanted to be aggressive,” Neitzel said. “Coach has been preaching that.”

Moments after Neitzel’s skein, the freshman drove to the basket for a layup, then the two combined when Neitzel picked up a loose ball and fed it ahead to Lucas for an uncontested layup and a 59-50 lead.

On the next possession, as if to prove these guys really do make their living playing defense, the guards combined on the final blow. Neitzel reached in to redirect Fields — who found himself slamming directly into Lucas. The ref called a charge and, cruelly and almost appropriately, Fields found himself on the ground writhing in pain.

Pitt lost the ball on offensive fouls four times down the stretch.

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