Quickness Fuels Second Half MSU Rally vs BYU

After a sluggish first half, MSU rallied back to pick up their second straight road win

Nothing went right for No.9 Michigan State in their first half against No.20 BYU on Saturday.

The Cougars led by as many as 14 points, the bounces were going their way, and the Spartans kept turning the ball over.

But with a 14-3 MSU run to open the second half, everything that went wrong was forgotten, and the Spartans (8-1) took it to BYU, using their quickness and hot-shooting by Drew Neitzel to rally past the Cougars (7-2) 68-61.

After shooting 0-for-5 from the field, Neitzel finally sank a jumper with 1:36 left in the first half, breaking out of a brief shooting slump to start the game.

But the shot was just a sign of things to come in the second half, as the All-American scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, including a jumper and a three with less than three minutes to play to put BYU away. With MSU holding a slim 57-56 lead with 3:42 to play, Neitzel took the ball end-to-end to finish with a key jumper putting the Spartans up by three.

After a missed three-pointer by BYU's Jonathan Tavernari, Kalin Lucas grabbed the rebound and fed a streaking Neitzel, who was running cross-court from under the basket.

With a big three-pointer with 2:21 to play, BYU started to foul, with six free-throws by Travis Walton sealing the Spartan win.

While the Cougars stuck with their three-point shooting, Michigan State countered with the fast-break, catching BYU sleeping resulting in their guys getting in foul-trouble, in particular their third leading scorer Lee Cummard.

After shooting 29 percent from the field in the first half, the Spartans shot 16-of-24 from the field in the second half.

The Cougars shot the ball poorly in the second half while the Spartans went inside, running plenty of set plays that caught BYU.

One of the biggest differences in the game was the offensive rebounding, which the Spartans dominated 17-8 but seemed to standout more than the number may show. Overall, the Spartans edged the Cougars in rebounding 37-29.

BYU's big-man Trent Plaisted scored 19 points but cooled off in the second half, with Sam Burgess making several threes that kept BYU close to MSU until the end of the game.

Despite being their best and most reliable player, BYU lived and died with the three rather than go inside to their big-man late in the game, and they ran out of luck with their long-range shooting, which went cold in the last 2 minutes of the game.

The Spartans on the other hand, got a strong 17 points from Raymar Morgan, and a double-double from Goran Suton (12 points, 13 rebounds), who had the tough job of guarding Plaisted inside.

It was Morgan who also helped set the tone for a Spartan second half rally, bringing MSU within 10 points going into halftime thanks to a three-point play.

The win capped off a huge week for MSU, beating two strong teams in front of two hostile road crowds.

These are the kind of games that will help the Spartans come March on selection Sunday as well as prepare them for Big Ten conference play, which typically features a weekday game and a weekend game every week, much like the Spartans played this week.

Even more impressive was the way the Spartans won these two games, having to battle back in both games to persevere through tough environments and large deficits.

MSU now will have a week off to prepare for their game next Saturday against IPFW back home at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

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