Izzo finds paradise overrated
The MSU coach accepts blame for the loss but has no love for booing fans
The acrimony between Hawaii and Michigan State spilled over from football to basketball yesterday. This time it wasn't coaches exchanging sarcastic barbs instead of game tape, like the days leading up to MSU's football win over UH in September. This was much more bizarre.
The Rainbow Warriors' 84-62 upset of the No. 4 Spartans yesterday was one of the biggest victories in UH basketball history. But it was also marked by a strange situation involving multiple cases of cramps, a 10-minute injury timeout, booing fans and an unhappy visiting coach.
Michigan State lost four starters for varying amounts of time because of cramps. And when Shannon Brown, Paul Davis, Drew Neitzel and Maurice Ager were in the game, their effectiveness was often limited.
The epidemic of dehydrated muscles reached a peak when, with 6 minutes, 36 seconds left and UH leading 67-52, Brown was writhing on the floor near the Michigan State bench -- too close to the court for the game to continue.
Some people in the crowd of 8,802 booed, and a few yelled to get Brown off the court.
Spartans coach Tom Izzo had a brief confrontation with UH team doctor Sid Smith, and the scattered booing continued until Brown was carted off and the game resumed.
"I've never seen anything like that and we have a big football rivalry here, a lot of bad blood," Izzo said. "Riley's team played hard and played well. I did think the fans were ridiculous, when that guy's laying on the floor like that ... their trainer, doctor, whoever it was to say something, I thought that was completely ridiculous. If we would've won I'd be a lot more upset about it. But if I do that then I'd be a sore loser."
Wallace said he understood Izzo's sentiments, but stood firmly behind the UH fans -- even those who booed.
"I'm happy with all of them," Wallace said. "They thought (Izzo) was delaying the game because we were running hot."
He said the booing fans probably didn't realize the potential severity of Brown's injury.
"If it takes that long, we need to get someone on the loudspeaker and explain," Wallace said.
Wallace waved off the Smith-Izzo confrontation. Smith was unavailable for comment, and Izzo declined to repeat what Smith said to him.
"I don't want to get into that," Izzo said. "But that would never happen at a Big Ten school. Never, never ever. When a guy's laying there in as much pain as that kid was in. I had to go and tell Riley that."
What did Izzo tell Wallace?
"He said you need to alert your fans he's hurt," Wallace said. "The rule is as long as he's down on the floor the game is delayed. They didn't understand the rules. If they were explained the rules they wouldn't have (booed)."
Davis scored 12 points and led the Spartans with 11 rebounds in 20 minutes. He couldn't explain the rash of cramps that limited the four afflicted starters to an average of 27 minutes apiece.
"We drank way more (water) than usual," Davis said. "On the plane (Thursday), every hour everyone was drinking something. I don't believe it was dehydration at all."
Izzo took responsibility for the cramping.
"Two or three of them are the best-conditioned guys we have," Izzo said. "You don't have this many guys cramp up if you do your job (as a coach)."
Izzo was generous in praising the Rainbows. He said he looks forward to getting another shot at Hawaii in the NCAA Tournament. But he said he wouldn't answer yes or no to a question about possibly bringing his team back to play at UH.
"I put our team in a tough situation. There's a reason no one comes here to play," Izzo said. "They're good and it's a tough place to play. At the same time I've got the play anyone, anyplace attitude. This one falls on me. I will blame the players if it's their fault."
Izzo said he "felt like vomiting" when the Spartans had four freshmen on the floor in the second half.
"Nothing was good about that. It's your biggest nightmare," he said. "They're not ready for it. Those freshmen are not ready to play at this caliber yet, especially on the road and everything. We knew that."
Now the Spartans must regroup for the EA Sports Maui Invitational, which starts tomorrow. Michigan State opens with Chaminade, but Maryland, Gonzaga, Arizona, Kansas, UConn and Arkansas make up the rest of the field.
Izzo said Michigan State did not treat the game against the Rainbows as a warm-up.
"We didn't play well, they did play well and deserve the credit they get," Izzo said. "The fans deserve the insult I'm giving them. How's that?"
Izzo's ears were probably also still stinging from the "Over-rated" chant from the crowd with 3 minutes left.
"They're not overrated," Wallace said. "They'll be there in the Big Ten. It's probably a wake-up call for them."