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Writer: Caitlin Moscatello
Game: Michigan State-Temple
Post Time: 3:46
No surprise here. Michigan State's defense was too much for Temple right from the beginning, with the Spartans clearly outplaying the Owls in a 72-61 win. Temple shot just 29.6 percent in the first half, and the team’s top-scorer, Dionte Christmas, who averaged 20.2 points per game in the regular season, didn't make one basket until the second half. He was held to just THREE POINTS the entire game.
Unfortunately for Temple, the team's one-two punch of senior forward Mark Tyndale (who led the Owls with 16 points) doesn’t work when Christmas lets himself get overwhelmed early on. With Michigan State being one of the top defensive teams in the Big Ten, Christmas should have been better prepared, and, let’s face it, it doesn’t help when he and his teammates miss six shots from the line (Michigan State missed two).
A pleasant surprise for the Owls was freshman Lavoy Allen, who had an unexpected double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. But his performance, along with Tyndale, was not enough, and the crowd at the Pepsi Center (OK, the people in the crowd wearing green) was on its feet to cheer on the likes of Spartans' forwards Raymar Morgan (15 points, 4 rebounds) and Goran Suton (6 points, 9 rebounds) and center Drew Naymick (10 points, 8 rebounds). Naymick, who looks like a 6-foot-10 leprechaun (it doesn’t help that Michigan State’s colors are green and white), dunked twice during the game, drawing big cheers from the crowd and a few fist pumps from the Spartans' mascot.
"We did a great job of executing our sets, and other guys stepped up," said Naymick. "Our defense did a great job on Christmas, their leading guy."
It wasn't the best game for another Drew -- Drew Neitzel -- a senior in his last NCAA tournament. Neitzel averaged 14.2 points in the regular season but was held to just five against Temple. If Michigan State wants to keep advancing, Neitzel is going to have to find a way to get himself more into the game, and should have plenty motivation -- he already saw his team lose to Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament, just another missed opportunity for hardware nagging at the seniors on the team.
"Everyone was feeling the same way after losing to Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament," said Naymick. "We played well enough to win but we didn't execute at the end. That was my last chance and Drew's last chance to win any kind of Big Ten championship."
What next? Much like today, the Spartans are going to have to focus on keeping their defense tight. And while today’s win might give Michigan State confidence, Naymick and his teammates are focused on the next game. "Our goal is to win this weekend."
And now, on to Pittsburgh…