No. 1 Wisconsin Taken Down by Spartans
Wednesday, February 21st 2007, 5:57 am
News On 6
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ The weight of being No. 1 for the first time wasn't what buried Wisconsin.
It was Michigan State, particularly Drew Neitzel.
Neitzel scored 28 points as the Spartans upset the top-ranked Badgers 64-55 on Tuesday night, in a rough and rowdy Big Ten game.
``We've had TV crews following us and stories being done for the past month,'' Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. ``Michigan State played better. They were the better team tonight.''
Wisconsin's first stint at No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25 might be a short one, but the Badgers (26-3, 12-2) have a huge opportunity to bounce back Sunday when they travel to No. 2 Ohio State for a showdown with conference championship and NCAA tournament top-seed implications. The Buckeyes, who host Penn State on Wednesday, lead the Badgers by a half-game in the conference standings.
Neitzel hit several key shots in the second half to give Michigan State its first win over a top-ranked team since the Spartans defeated Indiana State in the 1979 national championship game.
In other Top-25 games Tuesday night, it was: UNLV 60, No. 14 Air Force 50; No. 19 Texas 80, Texas Tech 51; and Providence 64, No. 22 West Virginia 61.
The win also boosts the postseason hopes of the Spartans (20-8, 7-6 Big Ten), who are trying to make the trip to the NCAA tournament for the 10th straight season. They have the longest streak in the Big Ten and fifth-longest in the nation behind Arizona (22), Kansas (17), Kentucky (15) and Duke (11).
Michigan State fans seized the moment, rushing the court after the victory _ a celebration players enjoyed before heading to the locker room.
``It was crazy,'' Neitzel said of the fans' enthusiasm. ``They were behind us the whole way.''
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo soaked up the celebration afterward, counting it as one of the best wins he has enjoyed on the Spartans' home court.
``It's one of those memory makers, and that's what life is all about,'' Izzo said.
Neitzel hit two 3-pointers late in the game that gave the Spartans momentum. One of his shots bounced in and out of the basket twice before falling through, giving Michigan State a 56-51 lead with about 2:20 left.
Neitzel high-stepped and screamed after making the shot, sensing it was a game-changer.
``Neitzel hit some real tough shots, just like we knew he would,'' Wisconsin's Kammron Taylor said.
``Neitzel's the one who turned the game around, no question,'' Ryan said.
Travis Walton had 13 points and 10 assists for Michigan State and Raymar Morgan added 12 points.
Marcus Landry led Wisconsin with 18 points. Alando Tucker, the leading candidate for Big Ten player of the year, had 16, only two in the second half.
A tenacious Michigan State defense forced Tucker to settle for outside shots.
``They were really working hard to keep it out of my hands,'' Tucker said. ``That's the best defense I've faced this season.''
The Spartans also dominated on the boards, outrebounding the Badgers 41-24.
The Badgers will aim to bounce back against Ohio State in what still figures to be a highly hyped game. Wisconsin already has set school records for victories in a season, despite having a five-game win streak snapped Tuesday.
``We still have a game to play on Sunday,'' forward Brian Butch said. ``Our schedule doesn't stop because we lost.''
UNLV 60, No. 14 Air Force 50
At Las Vegas, Kevin Kruger had 14 points and a career-high 10 assists to help UNLV beat Air Force.
Kruger went 2-for-11 from the field, but 9-for-9 from the line. Joel Anthony added 10 points and nine rebounds for UNLV (23-6, 10-4 Mountain West), which won its 13th straight home game.
Nick Welch had 15 points and nine rebounds for Air Force (23-5, 10-4), which is now tied with UNLV for second in the Mountain West behind No. 21 BYU, which is 10-2 in the conference.
No. 19 Texas 80, Texas Tech 51
At Austin, Texas, A.J. Abrams scored 18 points and Texas stayed in the thick of the Big 12 race with a win over Texas Tech.
Kevin Durant added 17 points for the Longhorns (20-7, 10-3), who had all five starters score in double figures, but didn't have a 20-point scorer for the first time this season. Texas is a half-game behind Texas A&M for second in the Big 12 and a game behind leader Kansas. The Longhorns play both in their last three games.
Alan Voskuil scored nine points to lead the Red Raiders (17-11, 6-7), who shot 29 percent. Jarrius Jackson, who came in averaging 20.7 points, was 2-of-10 for seven points.
Providence 64, No. 22 West Virginia 61
At Providence, R.I., Weyinmi Efejuku had 24 points with seven rebounds and Providence took advantage of West Virginia's 32 missed 3-point attempts.
Jonathan Kale added nine points and nine rebounds for Providence (17-9, 7-6 Big East), which improved to 16-2 at home and 3-3 against ranked teams as it tries to move off the NCAA tournament bubble.
Darris Nichols and Frank Young scored 14 apiece for West Virginia (20-7, 8-6), which is still looking for a road win against a quality opponent.