Spartans Crush the Cats in Chicago!

Hondo S. Carpenter

January 24, 2008

Evanston, ILL

Welsh-Ryan Arena

O.K. it wasn’t as cold as Minneapolis, but coming into the arena tonight the cold and the large amount of the Spartan Nation here both stood out. When the Spartans came on the court with about three minutes to tip off, they got a warm ovation equal to, if not greater than the home Wildcats. When they can get tickets, the Spartan Nation sure travels well with their basketball team.Â

I had to laugh during the opening introductions, the Spartan fans cheers were much louder than the Wildcat fans booing, and the Spartans showed some class by not booing the Wildcats on their home court. Izzo was introduced with thunderous applause, considerably louder than NWU Head Coach Bill Carmody. That set the tone for what was going to be a long night for the Cats.

The Spartans were in control here in Evanston the moment they got off the bus. I asked the NWU beat writer sitting next to me if he agreed that the majority of the crowd was Spartans and he answered, “Easily.” One NWU official estimated it at 55% Spartans.

It was just a magical kind of night. Chris Allen opened by going four of four (all in the first half) from the three-point line. The Spartans shot an astounding 65.2% from the field in that half and Neitzel was three of four from long range. Even more amazing, if that was possible, was that the Spartans had 14 assists on 15 buckets in the first half. It was clear at halftime the game was over. The only thing in doubt was the final score and stats.

The Spartans couldn’t have played any better leading up to the bedlam battle on Sunday at the Breslin against Michigan. All week Izzo was afraid that his team would overlook NWU leading up to that game and he certainly did his job by keeping them focused.

After the game I reminded Izzo that he had not wanted to talk about UM before tonight’s game, so what is he thinking now? “Four of those players (Wolverines) we wanted. They have more McDonald’s All American’s than we do.”

Funniest thing of the night? Before the game a member of the NWU student section had a sign asking for Kebler to play. I asked the NWU beat writer next to me who the kid was and he had no idea. I mentioned we had a Kebler, but it was CLEAR it was an NWU kid with the sign. When the Spartans went up 14 with 3:49 to play in the game, the NWU student began to chant for…you guessed it, the Spartans Mike Kebler. A freshman walk-on from Okemos.

XXX XXX failed to play tonight (LOL) but seriously here are some stats to make you think:

Assists preceded 25 of MSU’s 29 baskets.

Neitzel had 20 points and five assists.

Raymar had 23 points and 8 boards.

The Spartans shot 60.4% from the field.

Jason Richardson was in the house. The team was very excited to sit with him. One of the reasons I love that guy is because he hasn’t let his fame and money change him. He was up cheering and yelling and many of the players talked about how much that meant to them. I got an exclusive interview with him and will have it later on the site.

The score doesn’t tell how big of a blow out it was. MSU dominated and when the Spartans were running off the court into their locker room Drew Neitzel was yelling at the top of his lungs, “We got Michigan in our crib!” These guys are ready for that game, and it should be a good one.

We will have the post game video up as soon as we get back to Lansing.

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