Michigan State looked like it had some chemistry problems when Derrick Nix and Keith Appling got into a towel fight in a team huddle Saturday during the Spartans’ 70-48 win over Memphis, but coach Tom Izzo says he loved it.
“Oh it’s great, isn’t it?” Izzo responded when asked about the incident by CBS’ Rachel Nichols after the game. “It reminds me of [Mateen] Cleaves and them. It’s better when your team’s getting a little feisty a little bit. Keith didn’t want to take anything from Nix and he told him, so, that’s all good.”
Nichols pointed out that Izzo didn’t look too happy about the fighting at the time, but Izzo insisted it wasn’t a bad thing.
“Trust me, in my program, that’s all good. They got after it a little bit and I kind of enjoyed it. That’s the way we are. We’re a blue-collar group, and that’s the way we play.”
When Izzo mentioned “Cleaves and them,” he was referring to his 1999-2000 team that won the national championship. They were led by Cleaves, then a senior, who had a tough, take-charge type of mentality. That team also featured the “Flintstones,” which was comprised of Cleaves, Charlie Bell, and Morris Peterson (Antonio Smith had graduated), all of whom grew up playing ball together in Flint, Mich. Nix and Appling live together and played together at Detroit Pershing in high school.
In postgame comments shared by MLive.com, both Appling and Nix said there is nothing but love between them, and that that sort of petty fighting is typical. We encourage you to follow that link to read more about the relationship between Appling and Nix.