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January 27, 2007

Ohio State survives Spartan comeback

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -Greg Oden scored 19 points and No. 5 Ohio State nearly blew a 20-point halftime lead before holding off Michigan State 66-64 on Saturday night.

Maurice Joseph's 3-pointer with just over a second left bounced off the rim, preserving the win for the Buckeyes (18-3, 6-1 Big Ten), who won their fifth straight overall and 21st in a row at home.

They also ended Michigan State's four-game winning streak in Columbus.

Drew Neitzel, the smallest guy on the floor, almost led the Spartans (17-5, 4-3) to a dramatic comeback win. He scored 24 of his 29 points in the second half to draw Michigan State, which had a four-game winning streak end, to within a point with less than a minute left.

Oden, shooting free throws left handed while he recuperates from surgery to repair ligament damage in his right wrist, hit a foul shot with 15.3 seconds left to put Ohio State ahead 66-64. Oden was 8-of-10 at the line in the second half when the Buckeyes were starving for offense.

Raymar Morgan, a runner-up for Mr. Basketball as an Ohio high school senior last year, scored 14 points for the Spartans.

Jamar Butler had 12 points and six assists for the Buckeyes, with Daequan Cook adding 11 points - all in the first half when Ohio State took a 43-23 lead.

Oden never had a field goal after the 13:20 mark of the first half. He finished 11-of-14 at the line and also had six rebounds and three blocked shots.

The Spartans ran off the first seven points of the second half with four players scoring, serving notice that they wouldn't go down quietly.

Neitzel, who missed six of his seven shots from the field in the opening half, led the Spartans' surge. He scored 16 of their 18 points over a 6-minute span while the Buckeyes floundered at the offensive end. Neitzel was flattened while hitting a 3 and completed a four-point play, then later hit two foul shots to cut Ohio State's lead to 50-44 with just over 12 minutes left.

The Buckeyes, who shot 63 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes, suddenly couldn't get an open shot from the perimeter and when they did get it in to Oden he was quickly fouled by the Spartans.

Neitzel hit another 3 just over a minute later to make it 57-54 with 6:48 left - the closest the Spartans had been since the 14-minute mark of the first half.

The teams traded baskets, the lead swinging between three and five points, until Neitzel was fouled while shooting a 3 with 1:41 left. He hit the first two but missed the third, with Ohio State left holding a thin 65-64 lead.

Morgan then blocked Ron Lewis' shot at the other end, but Neitzel misfired on a 3 for the Spartans.

After an Ohio State turnover with 36 seconds left, Michigan State called timeout.

But Neitzel, who finished 9 of 20 from the field and 4 of 12 on 3-pointers, missed a shot behind the arc with 20 seconds remaining. The ball bounced loose, with players from both players scrambling for a piece of it. The officials ruled that Oden was fouled in the scrum.

With a sellout crowd of 18,965 - clad in white on ``white-out night'' at Value City Arena - standing, the Spartans hurried down. The Buckeyes shadowed Neitzel, who fed Joseph, but his last shot was off the mark.

For more coverage of Michigan State, visit SpartanMag.com; for more on Ohio State, visit BuckeyeGrove.com.

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