March 3, 2013
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Derrick Nix slumped in his stall in a quiet locker room, getting his first look at the box score from No. 4 Michigan's 58-57 win over No. 9 Michigan State on Sunday.
The line next to Nix's name wasn't pretty.
He had a career-high six turnovers, a total that almost matched his scoring (seven) and rebounding (eight) totals. Nix missed seven of nine shots from the field and couldn't connect on a critical free throw.
"I had six turnovers, that's pretty bad for a senior, especially being a big fella," he said softly. "I didn't play well in this loss."
The burly center from Detroit had an opportunity to make up for his mistakes by making two free throws with 8.8 seconds left that would've tied the game at 58, but he missed the first attempt at the line.
"If I would've hit it, the game would've went differently," Nix said.
In the first half, Nix missed all four of his shots and had five of his turnovers as the Spartans led 31-28 despite making just .375 percent of their shots and turning the ball over eight times.
Nix had been making more than half of his shots this season, averaging nearly double figures, and scored 12 or more points in four of the previous five games.
The Wolverines (23-6, 11-5 Big Ten) clearly didn't want the Spartans (22-7, 11-5) to get the ball to Nix much in the post, where he has the ability to make plays for himself and teammates.
"I think they did a good job of fronting Nix," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "But we did a poor job of getting the ball in there and staying with the game plan that we had."
As poorly as Michigan State played, it still had a shot to sweep the season series against rival Michigan.
Trey Burke, though, simply wouldn't let the Wolverines leave Crisler Center without a win.
Burke stole the ball from Keith Appling near midcourt and went in alone for a dunk with 22 seconds left, then made another steal in the final seconds to seal the victory.
The Spartans had the ball with the shot clock off at 56-all, but Burke's first big defensive play enabled Michigan to take the lead. After Nix made only his second of two free throws, Michigan's Mitch McGary missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Burke ended the game by stealing a pass by Gary Harris intended for Appling.
"They switched and it kind of threw us off," Harris said. "We just had to improvise and Trey played good defense and I turned the ball over."
Michigan State's loss clinches at least a share of the Big Ten title for top-ranked Indiana. The Spartans have lost three straight in a season for the first time in more than two years, dropping them from first place in the conference to a four-way tie for second place in a logjam of teams hoping the Hoosiers can somehow lose two more games in the regular season.
Adreian Payne, who had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Spartans, summed up his emotions in a word.
"Bitter," Payne said.
The Wolverines avenged a 75-52 loss at Michigan State last month, making Appling a very somber Spartan.
"It's going to take a championship to get over this one because it's a feeling that I don't think I'll ever be able to swallow that we couldn't beat these guys again," Appling said. "Hopefully, we can win the championship so we can feel a little better.
"We still have a couple more games left in the regular season and we've got to finish strong."
The Spartans host Wisconsin on Thursday night and Northwestern next Sunday, playing to improve their seeding in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.
"There's still a lot of basketball left," Appling said.