INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Drew Neitzel wanted redemption for himself and the rest of the Spartans.
Less than a week after Neitzel was held to just six points in a loss to Ohio State in the final game of the regular season, he burned the Buckeyes for a season-high 28 points in No. 19 Michigan State’s 67-60 win Friday in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament.
“This is the best I’ve felt. I just wanted to come out and be aggressive,” said Neitzel, who hit six 3-pointers. “I think in a lot of games this year I was aggressive at certain points, and other parts of games I sat back and let my teammates do the work.
“I got a chance to redeem myself, not only myself but the team got a chance to redeem ourselves, and we took advantage of the opportunity.”
Fourth-seeded Michigan State (25-7), which lost to Wisconsin in the semifinals last year, will get a rematch with the top-seeded Badgers on Saturday. Wisconsin advanced with a 51-34 quarterfinal victory over Michigan in the lowest-scoring game in Big Ten tourney history.
Neitzel had four of his 3-pointers and 14 points in the first half, but the Spartans couldn’t pull away until late in the game with a 3-pointer by Durrell Summers, a steal by Neitzel and another basket by Summers. Ohio State managed only one free throw over a span of more than 4 minutes, and the Spartans took their biggest lead at nine points during a string of five free throws in the final minute by Travis Walton, his only points of the game.
“It was a tough game last weekend,” Neitzel said of Sunday’s loss to the Buckeyes. “It worked out funny how we played them in the last game and the first game of the tournament. As a player, you’ve got to forget about that (loss). I watched film and looked at myself in the mirror and said, `What can I do differently?”’
For one thing, the Spartans took care of the ball.
In the last game, they had 21 turnovers; this time, nine.
“I’m not sure we turned it over once or maybe twice against the press,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I thought in general we handled the press very well. We did put in a few wrinkles.
“All in all, when we got Raymar (Morgan) in the middle of the zone was another big key. We felt we could kick out to our guards. The biggest thing we worked on was getting our guards in the fight and not letting them linger in the background.”
Morgan had eight points, six rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
Kosta Koufos scored 19 points and David Lighty had 12 for fifth-seeded Ohio State (19-13), which won the conference tournament last year.
“Obviously it was a hard-fought game,” Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said. “Michigan State made some huge plays down the stretch. I thought the defense was off the charts there to start the second half.”
Ohio State had to come back from a 10-point deficit in the second half to beat Michigan State last weekend. This time, the Buckeyes stayed close throughout thanks to a big boost from Koufos, a 7-foot freshman.
Neitzel’s third 3-pointer put Michigan State up 27-22, but Koufos matched that from long range and added another basket after Neitzel’s next 3. Ohio State got the ball back in the closing seconds of the half, and a 3-pointer by Jamar Butler tied it at 30 at the break.
It was only the second tie of the game—Ohio State never led in the first half—but Michigan State could never pull away to a comfortable advantage. The Spartans’ biggest lead of the half was 18-11 before an 8-2 run that included a fastbreak dunk by Koufos. Michigan State never led by more than five after that until its late run in the second half.
Ohio State’s only lead was at 32-30 on a basket by Lighty at the start of the second half. Neitzel’s next 3-pointer put the Spartans back on top, and they stayed there despite a stretch of 7 minutes without a field goal.