Neitzel Puts Spartans Back In Hunt

Marc Zarefsky

By Marc ZarefskyThe Daily Northwestern

Two road losses two weeks ago put Michigan State in the unusual position of starting conference play 0-2. Fortunately for the Spartans, two home wins over NU and Illinois last week have them right back in the center of the Big Ten pack.

With sophomore guard Maurice Joseph and freshman forward Raymar Morgan missing time this season due to injuries, coach Tom Izzo has had to rely on junior guard Drew Neitzel to carry much of the scoring load.

“It’s been difficult with Morgan and Joseph out, because our offensive weapons have been reduced, which means people can put more pressure, and there is more pressure, on Drew,” Izzo said.

Despite this pressure, Neitzel has showed a scoring prowess not displayed by him in his prior seasons in East Lansing, Mich.

Neitzel has led or tied for the team lead in scoring in 14 of the Spartans’ 19 games this season. And against Illinois on Sunday, Neitzel helped Michigan State overcome a 14-point deficit late in the first half, and iced the game with a jumper and two free throws in the final 25 seconds.

“We’re definitely getting our scholarship out of Drew,” Izzo said.

WELCOME BACK

After missing nearly all of last season with a broken left foot, junior forward D.J. White has been a major factor in Indiana’s early success this season.

The Hoosiers are 12-4, 3-1 in the Big Ten under first-year coach Kelvin Sampson, with wins over Purdue, Penn State, and Iowa.

White has been a dominant force on both sides of the ball, leading the Hoosiers in scoring with 13.3 points per game, rebounding with 7.3 rebounds per game, and leading the entire conference in blocks with more than 2.5 per game.

“I think D.J. always looked at himself as an offensive player, but I don’t know that other than blocking shots, he looked at himself as a defensive player,” Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Someone who would sprint back on defense, communicate to his teammates where they are and where he is, and I think he has improved in all those areas, and I think he can still get better too.”

Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said White’s passing ability is one of the junior’s strengths, and one of the things that is neglected about him. White currently is third on the Hoosiers in assists.

“I think he’s a great passer out of the post and does a great job of finding guys,” DeChellis said. “He’s not a kid who tries to force it. He’s not trying to put 10 pounds of potatoes in a five-pound sack.

“He’s a kid that takes what you give him.”

‘Chris’ Rocks

Wisconsin’s Kammron Taylor earned Player of the Week honors last week with two strong performances in the Badgers’ wins over Ohio State and NU.

The senior guard scored a season-high 25 points and five rebounds in a 72-69 win over the then-No. 5 Buckeyes, then added 12 points and four rebounds in a 56-50 win over the Cats Saturday.

“(Taylor’s performance) maybe drew more attention against Ohio State because of the stage, but going down to Northwestern and playing them and doing some of the things he did there, especially in the second half, were huge,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “He was a difference maker, along with Alando (Tucker), in that game.

“Being a scorer and a point guard, those are things are hard to do, but I think he’s doing a very good job of it this year.”

Taylor is only 17 points short of the 1,000 point-mark for his career.

Reach Marc Zarefsky at [email protected]