Foul trouble, displacement calls deter Spartans in loss to Purdue
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Nick Ward’s explanation for why the Spartans lost to Purdue on Saturday was candid.
“Foul trouble,” Ward said. “That was it.”
The freshman forward’s night ended prematurely after fouling out during MSU’s 80-63 loss to the Boilermakers at Mackey Arena, with a career-low six points and two rebounds in 12 minutes.
Ward started for the Spartans but was benched less than two minutes into the game after fouling Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan, and with each foul called on the 6-foot-8 freshman, the frustrations augmented.
Ward fouled twice during the first half, limiting him to seven minutes through the first 20 minutes of play. Redshirt-sophomore forward Kenny Goins took over as the team’s big man for the remainder of the half, but also flirted with foul trouble into the second half.
“I told Nick to keep fighting, I told Kenny to keep fighting because they were doing a great job on the bigs,” freshman forward Miles Bridges said. “But there’s really nothing you can do if you’re being called for touch fouls.”
Ward was called for his third foul 1:11 into the second half and threw his arms in the air in annoyance. In came Goins for relief, but he was handed two more fouls less than a minute after checking in.
After his fourth foul call, Ward was forced to play without any defensive authority. To stay in the game Ward had to avoid his typical playstyle.
“You have to be smart about that,” Ward said in reference to playing in foul trouble. “I got two early fouls and then one early in the second half, then another one early in the second half. I can’t play defense how you want to play defense if you can’t play physical. I had to let them get position or else I’ll foul out right then and there. I tried to sustain as well as I could.”
Both Ward and Goins were issued fouls on soft touches and box out attempts — calls Ward said disrupted the flow of the game and weren’t called on both sides of the court.
“Let us play,” Ward said. “It’s going to be a physical game. If you’re going to call it on one end then call it on the other end. I wasn’t looking for a whistle at all.”
After the game head coach Tom Izzo said he was displeased and confused about the way touch fouls were called during the game, especially on the foul calls issued in the paint.
“I’m honestly frustrated by the way it gets called in there,” Izzo said during the postgame press conference. “That’s the only problem I have. I think they force you down, and to me displacement is displacement and I think my guys were getting displaced, honestly.”
After the departure of Ward and Goins, fifth-year senior forward Matt Van Dyk was MSU’s only option as the team’s five man. It left MSU unable keep up with the scoring tandem of Isaac Haas and Vincent Edwards — who combined for 30 points — to compliment Swanigan’s 24-point performance.
The 7-foot-2 Haas held a clear size advantage through every matchup the Spartans presented and scored the bulk of his points from passes given to him in the paint.
“It’s hard (defending Haas) when you can’t play defense, how you’re coached to play defense,” Ward said. “But you can’t do anything about it now.”
Ward and Goins, however, were just a part of the foul trouble that hindered the Spartans on Saturday. In all, 23 fouls were called on MSU compared to the 12 issued to Purdue.
A number of the fouls called on MSU were on the offensive side of the ball, leading to turnovers that stalled scoring chances and killed any signs of team rhythm.
“It hurts, especially when you’re down and you get a little bit of momentum and get some things going,” freshman point guard Cassius Winston said. “Then they keep going to the free-throw line, keep stopping the clock, keep adding one or two.”
Aside from the infractions, the Boilermakers finished the game shooting north of 50 percent with the majority of shots coming from inside the arc. Izzo said the game plan to start was to limit Purdue’s success from 3-point range after the Spartans allowed 11 triples against the Boilermakers in their first matchup of the season back on Jan. 24.
However, Izzo said to give the Boilermakers credit because they played a more complete game than the Spartans.
“They shot the ball 50 percent against us because they pound the ball inside, and after giving up all those threes the first half it’s kind of what we chose to do,” Izzo said. “They outplayed us in every aspect of the game and they deserved to win.”