EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Fran McCaffery stood at the podium frustrated by yet another loss. The Iowa men's basketball coach was short with his responses in the wake of an 86-76 setback to Michigan State until one question perked him up.
McCaffery chuckled when a reporter mentioned he didn't want to get the coach in trouble but asked why the calls weren't called consistently from one half to the next.
"I don't know," McCaffery said. "Your answer to that question is as good as mine. I give up. I surrender. I surrender. Apparently, I'm the bad guy all the time."
A tightly called first half -- which irritated Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo -- continued early in the second. On Iowa's second post-halftime possession, Michigan State was whistled for four fouls. The Spartans had five inside of three minutes. Then the foul calls dissipated, as did Iowa's advantage. The Hawkeyes, which led 41-39 at halftime, were outscored 47-35 in the second half. Michigan State was whistled for 20 fouls, while Iowa was called for 21.
"Sure enough, we got those five fouls and in my humble opinion, there were just some touchy fouls," Izzo said. "That made it hard."
The game became more physical, much to Michigan State's liking. Izzo made sure his team didn't lighten its defensive intensity, and the Spartans stayed strong.
"We told them, like (Michigan State football coach) Mark Dantonio, we're not changing our d-backs at Notre Dame. We're not going to change what we do."
Iowa's players noticed the officiating shift but they didn't want to dwell on it either. There were too many other issues -- defensive problems at the top -- to make excuses.
"Youíve got to be able to fight through that," Iowa guard Devyn Marble said. "Iím not a guy thatís sits there and insist and beg for calls and sometimes I feel like I deserve certain calls and I donít get them. But at the same time itís tough on them. The gameís going so fast, youíve got both coaches yelling at them. So I donít really worry about it. Itís not like they can take the call back or go back and call it if they missed it. So thereís no use in me wasting my time and energy to figure out whatís going on with the refs."
"I donít really know how to judge how they call games," Iowa forward Aaron White said. "They come out and call almost five fouls in the first possession and the way they were playing, they wanted those fouls they didnít call them the rest of the half. It was a physical game and we knew that coming in. We knew what they do. But itís a physical game. Itís tough to call from their end. Theyíre not perfect. Theyíre not going to be able to call anything. When fans are on them, coaches are yelling at the refs, itís hard to call a game like that."
The game started to get chippy later in the second half. McCaffery was hit with a technical with 5:27 left in the game after a verbal argument with official Bo Boroski. With 4:45 left, Iowa forward Zach McCabe picked up a technical after throwing Michigan State's Travis Trice to the floor after they were tied up. Michigan State's Russell Byrd was ejected for leaving the bench during the altercation, and McCabe fouled out.
With only seconds remaining, McCabe left for the locker room to avoid any issues during postgame handshakes.
"I just think that in that situation, there's no reason to bring him in," McCaffery said. "It just makes no sense. Just go to the locker room, it's over, no big deal. Now all the sudden, a spark can become a forest fire, and we don't need that.
"I think everybody was settled down. I don't think it would have been any issue, but why risk it?"