It hurt Michigan State coach Tom Izzo to lose a close one to Butler, 52-50, Saturday night in the NCAA semifinals. When he looked at the box score and saw the Spartans held the Bulldogs to 24 percent shooting in the second half and still lost, Izzo couldn't help but look elsewhere in the box score for an answer as to how that could happen.
He found it in the personal fouls column that showed Draymond Green fouling out in the final seconds and Raymar Morgan and Delvon Roe limited to 23 and 24 minutes, respectively, because they each had four fouls. Izzo admitted he was "ticked off" at the refs for tagging his team with early second-half fouls that put Butler into the double-bonus foul shooting situation midway through the second half, and he thought Green was fouled by the Bulldogs' Gordon Hayward on a field-goal attempt in the paint area with eight seconds left and the Spartans trailing by one point.
"I was upset about a couple of calls," Izzo said. "I really was. Don't take it as whining. You asked me a question, and I'm giving you a man's answer. I didn't like some of them, especially late.
"We put ourselves in a position where we had a chance to take a shot and win the game. I guess I questioned some of the way that last shot went."
When Hayward was asked if he partially blocked Green's shot, he admitted he might have hit him on the arm. But who wants to make that call in the final seconds of the NCAA semifinals? Green said, "I might have been fouled, but it was a physical game so you have to expect that. That's a bad play on my part. I have to go up expecting them to foul and still finish."
Equally upsetting to Izzo was the foul trouble that put Morgan on the bench early in the second half and also hindered Roe. With Kalin Lucas out with an injury, that made three starters who weren't available. Izzo said it led to what he called "bizarre" lineups and "dysfunctional" play.
At the same time, the two-time title-winning coach admitted his self-control left a lot to be desired when the Spartans got in foul trouble early in the second half. "We had five fouls in the first couple minutes of the second half," Izzo said. "It just seemed like it got to all of us a little bit. That's immaturity on my part, to be blunt about it."
As badly as Butler shot the ball, Izzo was impressed by how tough the Bulldogs were on defense, and he said they played as physically as anyone in the Big Ten. Izzo runs what he calls a "war drill" in which his players fight for rebounds and loose balls to toughen them up.
"Next year, it's going to be fistfighting because I'm going to make sure my guys are never, ever, ever, ever physically beaten out of a game again," Izzo said. "And I thought tonight, we were."