CHICAGO — Nobody offered up word of blame in the aftermath, but sometimes silence provides the best answer.
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery had difficulty keeping his emotions in check in his postgame news conference Friday, about 20 minutes after the Hawkeyes lost 59-56 to Michigan State. His opening statement was measured but easy to read between the words.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” McCaffery said. “I’ve coached in a lot of games. I’ve coached in a lot of tournaments. I’ve coached favorites; I’ve coached underdogs. This team deserved a better fate tonight.”
Later McCaffery was asked to clarify his thoughts regarding “better fate,” specifically about a foul call that sent Michigan State’s Gary Harris to the free-throw line with 29 seconds left. McCaffery sat silent, almost stone faced for about 10 seconds, then responded.
“Yeah, that’s part of it,” McCaffery said.
Iowa trailed 57-56 and defended the Spartans down the final seconds of the shot clock before Harris pulled up over Aaron White. The ball deflected off White’s hand, but White was called for the foul. Harris then shot two free throws to give the Spartans the final lead.
The Hawkeyes (21-12) were on the other side of several tough calls in the second half, especially during a 22-2 run that flipped a 12-point Iowa lead into an eight-point deficit. Iowa guard Devyn Marble was dinged for a offensive foul early in the run. An alley-oop dunk attempt by Adreian Payne led to a foul on Melsahn Basabe.
“I thought the ball was already out of bounds and (the official) called it,” Basabe said. “I don’t know what I could have done there. I didn’t touch him.
“I have no comment towards officiating. At the end of the day you give credit to Michigan State for getting the win.”
McCaffery vehemently argued for traveling on Michigan State’s Derrick Nix, but instead a foul was called on Zach McCabe. Nix made a basket on the play and hit an ensuing free throw to give Michigan State a six-point lead.
Neither team was called for many fouls in the second half, and Iowa totaled seven. Michigan State was whistled for five and didn’t get hit with its fourth until there was just 1:47 left in the game.