Neitzel & Lucas Carry Spartans to the Sweet Sixteen! Spartans win 65-54!

Hondo S. Carpenter

Drew Neitzel and Kalin Lucas led the Spartans to the Sweet Sixteen and on to Houston. The Spartans played a very good Pittsburgh team, and they did it with brawn on the defensive side of the ball and a balanced attack on the offensive side.

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In what has become a running story in the NCAA this entire season, once again the game was horrendously officiated. This time, at least, the balance of bad calls did fall the Spartans way.Â

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The Spartans’ suffocating defense held the Panthers shooting to only 32% from the floor and an astounding 11% from the three-point arc and those stats are padded considering it was much lower until the Panthers got warm at the end. That wasn’t the whole story however. Neitzel had 21 and Lucas 19, but Suton played extraordinarily well, shooting 7 of 11 for 14 points and nine boards.

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The Spartans have to be concerned with the fact that Raymar Morgan was virtually non-existent on either end of the court. He contributed only four points and three rebounds, but the team was balanced and hard-nosed and that was the only glaring flaw.

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The Spartans will now move on to Houston and take on either Miss State or the number one seed Memphis. Conventional wisdom among many pundits has been since before the tip off of the tournament that Memphis was by far the weakest number one seed and looking ahead the Spartans match up well with them.

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There is plenty of time to break down whoever wins that game at a later date, but many felt that Pitt (the #4 seed) was the best in the South, and the Spartans could be looking at an elite match up with Texas, a team they have already beat this season.

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I wrote an article last week that this team had to have a deep tournament run to avoid this season being a disappointment. Izzo agreed with me when I offered him my analysis on Monday by saying, “Disappointment? Sure, failure? No!” Clearly, these Spartans have avoided disappointment and now the road they have to travel certainly gets a lot rosier.

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These Spartans played perhaps their best game of the season earlier in the season against Texas and although tonight’s game was not pretty, it was the Spartan way of old. In fact, it was Izzo ball at it’s best.

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The Spartans played very tough and were opportunistic on the offensive side of the ball. Lucas, on more than one occasion, had the Panthers standing still. His speed neutralized their size and they couldn’t contain him. He and Neitzel together scored 21 of the Spartans 25 points leading them to the Sweet Sixteen.

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How good is Izzo? His NCAA tournament record is 26-9 in 11 appearances or for you statisticians: 74%. It is also his seventh Sweet Sixteen in those eleven years. Enough said!

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