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Anaheim, Calif. — Call it the Year of the Ref.

They've bungled football games, college and pro.

And now they're making some college basketball games unwatchable, too, with the new rules that are leading to more whistles and more courtside expletives.

It's really frustrating Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, who used much of his postgame presser following Sunday night's 77-64 win over Providence to vent.

And he wants this made clear: He's not venting at the officials, who are being instructed to call games the way they're calling the games. He's more upset with the committee of coaches who changed the rules, himself included.

"I don't want to get into it," Izzo said, before getting into it. "I won't get fined because I love the officials. I think they're awesome.

"I don't think it's their fault. They're scared to death. I think there's a difference between freedom of movement ... and touching a guy 30 feet from the basket. If you're impeding the process, that's a foul. Oh my God, some of them on us and them ..."

Michigan State star Denzel Valentine was in foul trouble early, with two first-half fouls. He got his third early in the second half.

Providence star Kris Dunn, like Valentine a player-of-the-year candidate, picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench for much of the second half.

"I don't want Denzel on the bench, and I don't want Dunn on the bench," Izzo said. "I haven't heard many people saying they enjoy walks to the free-throw line with the best players on the bench.

"I just think we're taking the flow of the game away."

Providence coach Ed Cooley was frustrated, too, though he seemed to want more fouls called.

He said his team's 15 free throws were the fewest it's taken since he became head coach in 2011.

"It's an adjustment period," Cooley said. "No sour grapes."

Harris rebounds

Eron Harris has caught the wrath of Izzo much of this trip to California, where MSU won the Wooden Legacy championship with wins over Eastern Michigan, Boston College, Boise State and Providence.

Harris, a transfer from West Virginia who had to sit out last season due to NCAA regulations, earned some praise Sunday.
He finished with 12 points, including some big baskets late.

"I think Eron had a mismatch," Valentine said. "He has a mismatch a lot on the floor. The things he can do, he can score in a variety of ways.

"I think tonight, later on in the second half with me being in foul trouble and me not playing my best, that gave him a little confidence. He felt he needed to step up, and he did."

Bryn Forbes also elevated his game, with a team-high 18 points.

Harris said it might've been a good thing for the Spartans to go through such adversity. It could pay dividends down the road.

"Definitely," he said. "I think the lesson here is for a championship team, you've gotta do what you've gotta do.

"We're a deep team. Everybody can do multiple things."

Waves of green

The green-and-white took over Southern California during the four-day tournament.

MSU was represented by, by far, the largest fan base of the eight teams playing, including an almost-exclusively Spartans crowd for the title game.

The support, which included more than 700 showing up for a football watch party Saturday with Izzo and the players, wasn't lost on the basketball team.

"We've been blessed at Michigan State," Izzo said.

Said Deyonta Davis, a freshman: "It was big. I didn't know there were people from so far out that used to go to Michigan State. This week was fun."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tonypaul1984

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