Monday, September 20, 2021

Right team won Big Ten tourney title, but refs helped

March 7, 2011
Senior guard Brittney Thomas leans on Ohio State center for support before making a pass Saturday night at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Thomas snagged seven rebounds for the Spartans, but it was not enough to defeat the Buckeyes who knocked MSU out of the Big Ten Tournament with a 72-57 victory. Matt Hallowell/The State News
Senior guard Brittney Thomas leans on Ohio State center for support before making a pass Saturday night at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Thomas snagged seven rebounds for the Spartans, but it was not enough to defeat the Buckeyes who knocked MSU out of the Big Ten Tournament with a 72-57 victory. Matt Hallowell/The State News —
Photo by Matt Hallowell | and Matt Hallowell The State News

I’m that guy who is screaming at the television set, wishing bad things on a referee when they blow their whistle for the slightest contact. I’m that guy mocking the ref for acting like a big shot and trying to control a basketball game. And I’m that guy who will go ballistic when a zebra decides the outcome of the game.

You call it a psycho, I call it a basketball fan and there were plenty of “basketball fans” cheering on the No. 1 seed MSU women’s basketball team in their loss to Ohio State on Saturday night.

One fan even screamed at the halftime performer, who was juggling rubber balls on a piano to make music, to come back and referee the game. Yeah, that’s how bad Spartans fans thought the officiating was.

The team would never admit it because they have too much pride, and even I hate to say it but fouls are what turned the contest from a 1-point game into a 15-point blowout.

Some people like hearing themselves talk, Saturday’s refs enjoyed hearing the sound of their own whistles. On my four-hour drive from Indianapolis to East Lansing, I stared at the stat sheet trying to determine how what felt like a game that would go down to the last possession, turned into a double-digit defeat.

Trust me, I knew blaming it on fouls would be the easy way out. Everyone blames the referees. How many times have you seen a coach get in a refs face and scream to the point the ref needs to wipe their face off with a towel. Refs have it bad, real bad. So I didn’t want to participate in making it any harder on them unless there was truly a reason.

But the stats don’t lie.

The argument I used to persuade myself was Jantel Lavender’s career night. Thirty-seven points would certainly convince me that the Spartans didn’t deserve to be in this game in the final minutes, right?

Not exactly. Her 37 points convinced me the Spartans certainly shouldn’t have won the game, but by out-rebounding the Buckeyes on the offensive boards, 25-7, I couldn’t justify it.

Suzy Merchant’s team has been in that situation before. It seems like every game their opponent will have one player go on a scoring spree, however they keep it close with rebounds.

At Illinois, Karisma Penn scored 33 points, but the Spartans still walked away with the victory.

Well, how about the shooting percentages? The Spartans shot only 32 percent whereas the Buckeyes hit 53 percent of their shots. Wow, it looks like we have a winner. If the Spartans would’ve made more baskets, this easily could’ve been a close game.

Wait, the Buckeyes only hit two more baskets, 24, than MSU, 22, and the Spartans actually hit three more from behind the arc (5-2). So after doing the math, without the free throws, this would have been a 1-point game, 50-49. Crap, all that did was strengthen the case against the refs.

So then I looked at the fouls. How much impact did they really have on the game? The Spartans went 8-for-12 from the line and the Buckeyes, 22-for-26. They had 14 more attempts from the line and were given a 22-12 advantage in foul calls.

That seals that argument, it was definitely the fouls that turned this into a 15-point game. But were the calls justified?

That is up for debate. Spartan fans will say no chance, Ohio State fans will say the Spartans should’ve been called for more.

However, when junior forward Taylor Alton, who rarely is whistled for more than on foul in a game, gets called for three within the first seven minutes, it’s hard to say the refs weren’t a little quick with their whistle.

With each nudge the Spartans gave the Buckeyes, played was immediately stopped. If that’s how basketball was then even Brian Scalabrine could make an NBA All-Star team.

Sure it was a rivalry game, it was heated and both teams are known for being physical, but the fans traveled to see a battle between a three-time Big Ten award winner and a team with three Big Ten award winners this season.

Did the right team win?

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I’d say yes, the Buckeyes deserved it and played tough. But what could’ve gone down as one of the best Big Ten Tournament games of all-time, with an electric crowd that Keane called the best she’s seen at a tournament game in her career, was determined not by which fans could make enough noise to boost their team, but by the sound of a whistle.

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