Michigan State continues with 36 second-half fouls in Northwestern win


EVANSTON, Ill. –While watching Michigan State’s win over Northwestern on Sunday afternoon here at Welsh-Ryan Arena, Tom Izzo said he feels the same as most Spartans fans.

The veteran Spartans coach became frustrated with a disjointed and sluggish play, following 49 personal fouls whistled by game officials that created 63 free throw attempts.

“It’s not a fun game,” Izzo said afterwards. “It seems like there were mistakes every minute.”

In the second half, the foul rate was well over one per minute. The officials whistled a foul every 23.5 seconds of play in the second half (36 in 20 minutes for 51 free throw attempts). More than one in three shots taken in the game was an attempted free throw. Izzo called these figures “astronomical”.

Michigan state, however, made the most of the situation: it rose to 26 for 33 from the free throw line, including 19 of 24 in the second half, in a six-point victory (Northwestern, coincidentally, made exactly six fewer free throws as he went down to 20 for 30.)

That fact didn’t make Izzo like the situation anymore. But while he may have felt the same about the game as the casual fan who watches it, he said he probably had a difference of opinion as to who was at fault.

Izzo didn’t blame the three striped men for what happened. He blamed their bosses.

“I don’t blame the officials, I don’t blame the coaches, I blame the rules committee, of which I was a part to some extent,” said Izzo. “They want every contact to be a fault and this and that. I have a different opinion, but I have learned that my opinion does not matter.

Izzo has long been a critic of the emphasis on freedom of movement in college basketball refereeing, which means more touchdowns called in in an effort to encourage more offense.

While adjusting tactics to drive to the hoop and make contact is the logical answer in tightly refereed play, Izzo said he can’t ask players to play outside of their comfort zones.

“You can only do what you can do,” Izzo said. “I don’t want to go into a game and say, ‘Hey, we’re just going to kick guys in and fall.’

Defensively, the players said they played with extra caution due to the refereeing. Point guard Tyson Walker fouled late for the Spartans, but Malik Hall was the only other Spartans player to commit more than three fouls.

“Today was a little weird because they were calling a lot of ticking fouls,” Bingham said. “When the game is like this, we just have to be strong and play defense without our hands.”

Back from COVID-19

Michigan State had a full roster available at Northwestern after taking out four players Wednesday against High Point due to COVID-19.

But the two starters of the team who tested positive for COVID-19 a week ago said they felt the aftermath of their quarantine periods.

Bingham and Max Christie both started, played their typical roles against the Wildcats and scored in double digits. The two returned to team training on Thursday and have had three days of preparation. It wasn’t enough to make them feel completely back to normal.

“In the home stretch, it felt like the last eight minutes took forever,” said Christie, who played 34 minutes, a record for the team. “I really had to call for a second wind. I had to toughen myself up to play those eight minutes.

Bingham described his experience with the virus as a chest cold. He still managed to play 23 minutes, more than his season average, but Izzo said he could tell his starting cross was tired by the end of the first half.

“My first day in training, I just tried to tire myself as much as possible and then move on. This is what I have been doing throughout the week.

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