When that happens, unless someone else steps up, the Spartans are going to be in serious trouble.
MSU is quickly developing an unhealthy habit of standing around and waiting for Neitzel to bail them out. Further, their lack of rebounding and turnovers are compounding the problem.
The Spartans can't afford to wait for freshman Raymar Morgan to come back from injury, they need someone to step up now and provide a true inside scoring presence.
Junior Idong Ibok would like to be that guy. But he's so raw that head coach Tom Izzo is forced to limit his minutes. Still he produced seven points in just nine minutes on the floor against Belmont. Maybe he's the guy?
The most logical candidate, other than Morgan is third-year sophomore Marquise Gray. Gray spoke after the Belmont game about doing the little things to free up Neitzel; hitting the boards and not turning the ball over. He's been around long enough to know what's needed as the schedule stiffens heading into January, but will he deliver?
Gray was a solid 5-of-9 from the field with seven rebounds, but he has to stay out of foul trouble and do a more effective job of boxing out.
Maybe it's sophomore guard Travis Walton, who's currently mired in a deep shooting slump. Despite playing 31 minutes, Walton took just three shots from the field against Belmont and missed them all. He manged to give MSU 5-of-6 free throw shooting, but State needs more from a player with Walton's talent.
It looks like Izzo is trying to force feed freshman Isaiah Dahlman who played a team high 38 minutes and produced nine points, three rebounds and two blocks against Belmont, but the Minnesota native still seems hesitant to be more assertive with the ball.
Maybe, with both games at the Breslin Center, MSU will get through these last two non-conference games unscathed before Big Ten play begins January 4 at Iowa City.
But coach Izzo has to know he's on borrowed time. He needs someone to assert themselves, both for the short term and the long run if MSU hopes to land in the upper division of the Big Ten race.
"I don't know why we are playing like we are," said Izzo following the Belmont win. "We had two great practices and we didn't just leave it on the practice court because we spent a lot of time talking about things."
"We are going to have to do a lot better," admitted Izzo. "At least we found a way to win, and that's the mark of a decent team."