As Derrick Nix’s hook shot floated through the net on the Spartans’ opening possession, the MSU big man let out a yell.
After a Gary Harris fast break layup, Nix stood under the Spartans’ basket, jumping up and down with arms extended, asking for even more noise from an already raucous Izzone made up of alumni.
And when he checked out of the game for the first time, he made sure to hug or high five every player that checked in, urging his teammates to maintain the energy that helped them jump out in front.
The senior center was the driving force behind the No. 20 MSU men’s basketball team (10-2) in the first half, keeping the Spartans in the game against Texas (7-4), which led 33-28 at halftime.
MSU opened the game on an electric 12-2 run that brought the enthusiastic crowd to its feet.
But the Longhorns responded to MSU’s opening surge with a 10-1 run to recapture the lead, 14-13, a lead they would maintain for most of the rest of the first half.
Yet once again it was Nix serving as a stabilizer for the Spartans, scoring five consecutive points to keep MSU within one point, 18-17 with 8:32 to go in the first half.
After talking this week about finally understanding what it means to truly play hard, the senior center left everything he had on the court in the first half, scoring 14 points with nine rebounds and three steals, at one point grabbing his shorts from exhaustion.
Texas finished the half with a 8-4 run to secure a halftime lead behind 15 first half free throw attempts.
By comparison, the Spartans only shot seven free throws in the first half, drawing the ire of the near capacity crowd.