Here's the only significant takeaway from Michigan State's otherwise mundane beatdown of overmatched Iowa on Friday afternoon: You want Derrick Nix on your side in a fight.
With the Spartans and Hawkeyes tied at 22 midway through the first half, Nix caught a pass in the lane, absorbed contact from Andrew Brommer and scored a go-ahead layup. The 6-foot-9, 270-pound junior was so fired up about the play he delivered a haymaker to the basket stanchion powerful enough that it left a hole in the padding.
ESPN showed a replay of the Nix punch and a shot of the busted stanchion, prompting analyst Dan Dakich to quip, "Memo to those of you on Michigan State's campus who want to mess with Derrick Nix. Keep that in mind."
The hole in the Big Ten logo was a violent yet fitting metaphor for what the Spartans want to accomplish in Indianapolis this weekend.
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After losing the final two games of the regular season to Indiana and Ohio State to fall into a three-way tie for the Big Ten championship, Michigan State arrived at the conference tournament this week with a lot to prove. The Spartans hope to rebound from those setbacks, capture the Big Ten tournament title outright and stake their claim to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
If Michigan State is going to make that run, the Spartans will need continued solid play from a slimmed-down Nix in the paint, which means coach Tom Izzo may want to advise his center not to take anymore swings at the basket stanchion.
Former Oregon star Aaron Brooks missed six weeks after breaking a bone in his right wrist doing that against UCLA in 2004. Michigan State can't afford anything like that to happen to Nix this time of year.
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