EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) – For Derrick Nix, who hasn’t always had it easy at Michigan State, it was a good time to have a great day.
The senior who lost 70 pounds and overcame an arrest to become one of the Spartans’ captains had 25 points and 11 rebounds to help No. 20 Michigan State surge past Texas 67-56 on Saturday.
“Nix and I have a love-hate relationship; I love to hate him sometimes,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “He gets frustrated with himself sometimes, too. One of the hardest things to do is take criticism. But he has grown up a lot.”
Nix was 7 for 10 from the field and 11 for 13 at the line, a major improvement for a 64.9 percent foul shooter.
Keith Appling had 14 points and Adreian Payne added 13 for the Spartans (11-2), who stayed perfect in six December games.
“I didn’t get a scholarship here because they wanted to give it to me,” Nix said. “I had to be doing something right. Today, they didn’t double-team. I hit my first shot and tried to dominate the rest of the day.”
Julien Lewis scored 16 points and Sheldon McClellan had 13 for the Longhorns (7-5), who couldn’t match the efficiency of their 85-67 win over North Carolina on Wednesday night.
Texas trailed 41-40 and had a chance to take a lead but McClellan missed two free throws after a technical on Nix. The Spartans promptly grabbed a three-point lead on a jumper by Payne. They later made it 49-40 on two free throws by Nix and Appling’s 3-pointer.
“It was disrespectful to step across my face that way,” Nix said of a tumble-and tie-up that led led to some words he shouldn’t have said. “That was an Allen Iverson move. I think I deserved a tech. But we responded.”
It was 54-44 when the Longhorns cut the lead in half. A three-point play by Ioannis Papapetrou made a four-point game, and his jumper as the shot clock expired cut the margin to 56-54. After Payne and Appling built the lead back to six and Texas’ Jonathan Holmes was called for charging, Nix added a free throw to build the lead back to seven.
“We had opportunities up until the last four minutes to win the game,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “Our spacing wasn’t good. But the big thing was we had to get a better effort for our post players. Nix went to work in there.”
Nix fittingly grabbed the game’s last rebound, giving his team a 36-32 edge on the boards. That and 17 second-half free throws helped immensely.
Texas, the last nonconference opponent to win in Breslin Center exactly two years earlier, came in leading the nation in field goal percentage defense at .330. The Longhorns turned up the tempo, then dropped back into a zone to start the second half. But that didn’t help against Nix, who sparked a 10-0 run to give the Spartans a 36-33 lead.
“That’s one good basketball team we played today,” Izzo said. “They’d be really good with (Myck) Kabongo. I was disappointed by the NCAA ruling and for Rick. When I watched the way he cheered on the bench Wednesday night, I’d have given him a big hug if he’d been here. He reminded me of Mateen Cleaves.”
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)