December 22, 2012

Izzo: 'another step in the right direction'

EAST LANSING - Senior captain Derrick Nix has been a pain in Tom Izzo's backside on occasion during his four years in the Michigan State basketball program.

But Izzo has stuck with the 6-foot-9, 275-pound former Detroit Pershing standout because he has always believed that Nix would one day be able to deliver the type of performance he had against Texas.

Nix scored a career-high 25 points and added 11 rebounds in 67-56 win over the Longhorns,who came into the Breslin Center with confidence after upsetting North Carolina earlier in the week.

"Nix and I have a love/hate relationship," said Izzo. "I love to hate him sometimes. I think like every relationship it has grown into one where he listens more every day. He still struggles at times and gets frustrated with himself sometimes. The hardest thing for anybody to do is to take criticism. He has grown up enormously in the last two years, trust me. This year, those tantrums that used to happen on a regular basis, come very seldom now. He was locked in tonight. He moved his feet on defense."

The game served as an important dress rehearsal for the Big Ten season, which kicks off at Minnesota on New Year's Eve.

"That's one damn good basketball team," Izzo said. "I think people got enamored with the fact that they got beat by Chaminade and USC. I watched them on film and against Carolina, and they are good ... Texas is good, they're going to be good and so are the Spartans. I think we took another step in the right direction, got more inside play."

Keith Appling and Adreian Payne joined Nix in double figures. Appling scored 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting. He added three assists. Payne bounced back from first-half foul trouble to score 13 points with seven rebounds.



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