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Eagles Don't Have a Shot Against the Spartans

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By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 16, 2007

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., March 15 -- Shortly after Michigan State's 61-49 victory over Marquette on Thursday night in the NCAA tournament, Drew Neitzel was asked if he felt a little bad for the Golden Eagles, who didn't score for the first 9 minutes 40 seconds of their East Region first-round game.

Michigan State's junior guard, who was part of the squad that was upset by George Mason in the first round of last year's tournament, did not.

"You're trying to beat them 50-0 if you can," said Neitzel, who scored 12 points. "That's competitiveness. At the time you're not thinking that at all; you're trying to bury them even more. That's been our staple, just our defense. That's what won us the game tonight."

Eighth-seeded Marquette's disastrous first-half performance sapped the game of any real suspense. In fact, the pro-North Carolina crowd inside Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum seemed more interested in the score of the Duke-Virginia Commonwealth game than this one, which determined the Tar Heels' second-round foe. Ninth-seeded Michigan State (23-11) will face top-seeded North Carolina on Saturday.

The Spartans held Marquette (24-10) to its lowest point total of the season. The Golden Eagles were just 15 of 47 from the field, and remarkably, only five of their field goals were made inside the three-point arc. Marquette is not a particularly adept outside shooting team (it ranked 10th in the Big East with a .333 three-point field goal percentage), so Michigan State's goal was to limit the Golden Eagles' penetration and force them to settle for long shots.

Sophomores Dominic James and Wesley Matthews were a combined 8 of 25 from the field (5 of 14 from beyond the arc). Marquette's best outside shooter, Dan Fitzgerald, was just 2 of 6 from three-point range.

Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo said now that the game was over, he felt bad for his good friend and former assistant, Marquette Coach Tom Crean.

"That was one of the more difficult games I've played in now that it is over," Izzo said. "It was a very difficult preparation week for me and yet I learn now that it's going to happen in this business. You've got to play your friends once in a while."

ยท NORTH CAROLINA 86, EASTERN KENTUCKY 65: The Tar Heels spent the early minutes of their NCAA tournament opener looking like a top seed determined to beat down an overmatched opponent.

North Carolina then needed almost the rest of the game to do it.

Tyler Hansbrough had 21 points and 10 rebounds to help the Tar Heels (29-6) beat the Colonels (21-12), giving Coach Roy Williams an NCAA-record 18 straight years with at least one tournament victory.

It was an emotional day for Williams. A team spokesman said that Williams's sister died Wednesday night.


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