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February 13, 2013EAST LANSING - Michigan State legend Mateen Cleaves and fellow Flintstone Charlie Bell were two of the many former players back on campus to support the Spartans in their Top 10 match-up with rival Michigan.
Cleaves was elated with No. 8 Michigan State's 75-52 victory over No. 4 Michigan.
"Whether they win by 100 points or one, I am just happy they got the win," said Cleaves. "This is a bragging rights game. And this is something in the state of Michigan where we all have got Michigan friends.
"It was a big game because Michigan is a good team. Michigan is a very good team, a Big Ten title on the line, bragging rights on the line. It was a big game."
Cleaves is impressed with the way Michigan State is playing during the final month of the regular season in the Big Ten.
"I like the way they play defensively, the way they help each other, the energy that they play with, and the way they share the basketball," said Cleaves. "All of the shots are coming in rhythm. That's a good thing and that's a testament to what they are doing and it is a testament to how coach Izzo prepared them."
The former captain also likes what he sees from Michigan State's freshmen Gary Harris, Matt Costello, and Denzel Valentine.
"When they signed here, I thought we had a good core group coming in," Cleaves said. "To see what they are doing is just a testament to their work. I talk to coach Izzo a lot and he just talks about the work that they put in, night in and night out."
Bell believes the development of Michigan State's freshmen could be the catalyst for a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
"The freshmen are playing better and our bigs are playing better," Bell said. "Keith (Appling) is doing a great job of leading this team. They've got great inside-outside play. I think on any given night this team has no weakness. They play great defense, they are knocking shots down. They are rebounding. They are defending. They are playing well together and it was really good to see that tonight."
Video Interview: Charlie Bell
Hall of Fame Spartan
Cleaves will be inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame on February 18.
"I never played the game to get awards," Cleaves said. "I played the game to win. It's funny, when you play it that way, good things happen. It does mean a lot, not only for me but for the city of Flint, for Michigan State. It's not only for me, a lot of people had a helping hand in me becoming a successful player. I am just proud of everybody that helped me."
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