Michigan State was leading No. 4 Purdue and its bruising 7-foot-4 big man Zach Edey 35-33 at halftime on Saturday, but Edey was dominating with his physicality and had 15 points at the half. He also got called for two questionable fouls, which prompted some interesting reactions from Kevin Connors, Dalen Cuff and Jon Crispin, the ESPN halftime report crew.
Cuff credited Michigan for playing well in the first half, but then proceeded to rip the officiating.
“These fouls on Zach Edey. This has got to stop,” Cuff complained. “You can’t penalize him for having a physical advantage.”
As clips of Edey making a strong post move on a Michigan State player and getting called for a questionable offensive foul aired, Cuff continued, “This is not a foul. He was turning his body (the defender) was in his face. If anything, you can argue that’s a cylinder foul. He’s allowed to pivot through.”
The second foul appeared to also be a defensive foul, but it went against Edey as the defender was draped all over him, with two arms and an elbow in his back.
Cuff wasn’t feeling those calls at all.
“He’s got 15 points. That’s how they are playing. You cannot punish him just for being a physical marvel.”
Crispin agreed and turned the halftime analysis into an indictment on the entire college game, which has been criticized for losing its luster and star power as we move into the age of NILs and pro leagues for high school-aged kids.
“I get so sick of hearing points of emphasis (when it comes to calling fouls) every single year. … Look how physical this game has gotten. Two hands on the ballhandler, elbows and another hand on the post player. We do need to figure out how to make this game better. We do. I’m tired of watching games in the 50s.”
Crispin says the talent is there, it’s the way these kids are being coached and how refs are impeding the flow of the game. It’s watered down the product of college hoops. Others will point to the one-and-done culture and the fact that all of the NBA-bound players are now joining pro leagues where they can get paid until they are draft eligible.
“I want to see a little more flow,” Crispin insisted. “We have the talent throughout the country. There’s so much parity, which means there’s a ton of talent. If we can get up the floor you start to see better flow and better rhythm in games, I think it’s going to be a better product. There’s too many hands on guys, charge calls, blowing the whistle on guys, it’s driving me nuts.”
The refs did loosen up, and MSU managed to pull out a hard-fought upset, 68-65 over No. 4-ranked Purdue to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. The scoring didn’t increase, but the competitiveness of the game won the day, even if neither team lit it up. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo did make history with the win, which was his 662nd career victory, tying Bob Knight for the most at a Big Ten school.
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