March 15, 2007

Michigan State shuts down Marquette

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Tom Izzo saved a few tricks for his first matchup against his close friend and protege. Nearly all of them came on defense.

Raymar Morgan scored eight of his 14 points during a dominating first half, and ninth-seeded Michigan State held eighth-seeded Marquette to nearly 24 points below its average during a 61-49 win in the first round of the East Regional on Thursday night.

Drew Neitzel and Marquise Gray added 12 points apiece for the Spartans (23-11), who never trailed and advanced to face the North Carolina-Eastern Kentucky winner in the second round Saturday.

The nation's fourth-best scoring defense also held Marquette scoreless for almost 10 minutes to start the game and sent the Golden Eagles to less than 32 percent shooting in one of their worst performances of the season.

Dominic James scored 18 points on 6-of-16 shooting and Wesley Matthews added 10 points for Marquette (24-10), which was held to its puniest point total of the season, falling shy of its 58-point performance in a Jan. 7 loss to Syracuse. It was almost 24 points below its scoring average.

The Golden Eagles trailed by double figures for nearly all of the second half before pulling as close as 57-49 on James' 3-pointer with 36.5 seconds left. But it wasn't nearly enough to keep Marquette from its second straight first-round exit.

Michigan State's punishing defensive effort helped Izzo win his first coaching meeting with Crean, an awkward game between two tight friends who spent five years together on Michigan State's staff before Crean left for Marquette in 1999.

Their first matchup was decided early, when Marquette missed its first eight shots and was held scoreless for the first 9:40.

Marquette played without its best defender and second-leading scorer. Guard Jerel McNeal missed his fourth straight game with an injured right thumb. He wasn't expected to play, though he did sit on the bench in warm-ups with his thumb wrapped.

His absence was more noticeable on offense because the Golden Eagles couldn't have started much colder. They didn't score until David Cubillan's 3-pointer from the left wing with 10:20 left.

Meanwhile, Michigan State scored the game's first 14 points, and controlled both ends of the floor by making six of their first 11 shots. Joseph capped that string with a 3 from the left corner with 10:45 remaining.

Each of Marquette's first-half baskets came from 3-point range. The Golden Eagles were 0-of-8 from inside the arc and 4-of-11 from long range.

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