INDIANAPOLIS - Michigan State men’s basketball fans might fall asleep tonight to the sounds of whistles echoing in their heads. The athletes, who will stay in Indianapolis until Selection Sunday despite being eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament Thursday afternoon, might hear it too.
In the Spartans' 68-57 loss to Maryland in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament, MSU racked up 24 fouls, including a technical call on Head Coach Tom Izzo during the first half.
“I solely pray that every alum out there looks at this game and doesn’t say one thing to a player, just blames me,” Izzo said post-game. “I let the officiating get to me in the first half. 26 years in this job that should never happen, that’s totally my fault not for the technical just the entire situation.”
The officiating crew of Bo Boroski, Rob Riley and Steve McJunkins undoubtedly changed the flow of a first-half that began in MSU’s favor. After once leading by 12 points, the Spartans lost their offensive swagger to the sound of the whistle, one that unevenly caught the Spartans 14 times in the first half while catching Maryland eight. Fans in attendance like Alex McCready sat in the Lucas Oil stands, stunned.
“I was a little shocked after the first 10 minutes," McCready said. "It was looking good at first but a lot more fouls than I was expecting and definitely a tough second half. All the foul calls just led to a choppy game and not any good flow throughout. … I think it messed up both teams to be honest with you.”
Fifteen of Maryland’s 34 first-half points came from their shots at the line. The Terrapins held the edge from the free-throw mark by shooting .714 to the Spartans' .500.
Junior forward Aaron Henry, who had looked forward to this “homecoming” tournament for himself, hung his head low post-game in visible disappointment and, perhaps, confusion.
“They were just making calls," Henry said. "I don’t know where they were getting them from. They were just making them. We were playing good defensive. They were being physical. We were being physical. It is what it is.”
MSU entered Thursday morning with an 0-5 record in Big Ten games with Boroski’s officiating, a stat Izzo said he didn't pay attention to. Fans felt the frustration, so much so that shortly after MSU’s loss a petition to “Remove Bo Boroski from his position as a Big Ten official,” circulated Twitter feeds. MSU fan Karson Shirey said he was a “fan” of the petition and would look into signing it.
“I think Bo Boroski is not the one, but we got to make our shots too,” Shirey, who also watched the game live at Lucas Oil Stadium, said. “I think it (foul calls) just ruins the flow and makes it hard to watch.”
Marketing senior Lexi Eagle also watched the Spartans live on Thursday. Eagle and her friend made the trip to Indianapolis because of their love for the Spartans, and they felt frustrated for their beloved team.
“The ref had a few bad calls for sure, a lot of bad calls," Eagle said.
However, as Shirey said, it wasn’t all officiating that contributed to MSU’s downfall. The game was ugly.
The Spartans went 11 minutes and 58 seconds without a bucket in a span that started in the first half before carrying over to the second. MSU committed 18 turnovers to Maryland's 11 while giving 10 offensive rebounds to the Terps.
The officiating might've taken a back seat if MSU stayed playing at the level they opened with in the first five minutes, but instead the Spartans let a handful of bad calls determine an 11-point deficit as their fate.
For Izzo, the most frustrating part about it all sits in the lack of consistency he's seen throughout different games when it comes to the whistle.
“I don’t know if anybody even knows how to play anymore because things are called so differently every week,” Izzo said. “That’s all the coaches ask for, players ask for, is consistency and I don’t feel that it’s been consistent.”
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