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Illini fans should be mad about the intentional foul call, but not at the ref

Dec 23, 2010, 3:03 AM EDT

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Missouri’s basketball team is slowly but surely becoming must-see TV.

Back in November, the Tigers lost to Georgetown in overtime as a last-second Chris Wright three wiped out Missouri’s 18 point comeback and three straight Jason Clark triples in the extra period won the game. Two weeks later, Marcus Denmon overcame the tragedy of his cousin’s death to take over in the second half and overtime as Mizzou knocked off Vanderbilt.

Tonight’s Braggin’ Rights matchup with Illinois, a 75-64 win for the Tigers, was just as exciting as the previous two Missouri games, but it will be remembered for the wrong reasons, especially in the eyes Illini fans.

With 44 seconds left, Michael Dixon was stripped in the back court by Mike Davis, who found DJ Richardson wide open on the left wing. Richardson buried a three to cut the Missouri lead to 62-61, but in typical Missouri fashion, the Tigers remained on the attack.

Kim English inbounded the ball to Denmon who hit a streaking Laurence Bowers, who had gotten behind the Illinois defense. Bowers went in for the layup and was pushed with two hands in the back by Mike Tisdale. Bowers made the layup and Tisdale was called for an intentional foul, meaning that Missouri then got two shots and the ball back. Bowers hit both free throws, then Denmon got himself wide open for a layup on the ensuing out of bounds play.

All told, Missouri scored six points in the span of a second on a single possession, turning a 62-61 nailbiter into a 68-61 lead and almost certain win. Essentially, the call on Tisdale ended the game.

And that call, no doubt, angered the Illini fans.

Its a tough pill to swallow, and its a terrible way to end such a terrific basketball game, but in no way did the ref make an incorrect call.

The intentional foul rule was put into place, in part, to prevent injuries that occur when one player is in the air and another player fouls him without making a play on the ball. Tisdale is trailing Bowers on the play in question, and while I truly doubt that his intention was to injure Bowers, Tisdale clearly gives him a two-handed shove in the back while he is in the air. This play is precisely the situation that the intentional foul rule was created for. Tisdale was trying to foul Bowers to prevent the layup. A two-handed shove in the back is not a play on the ball.

The foul Tisdale committed is a dangerous one. Its the reason that there is a rule that punishes that particular sort of foul more harshly.

If Illini fans are going to be mad at anyone about the way the game ended, it should be Tisdale.

Bowers had him beat. If he gives up the layup, its still a one possession game with 40 ticks left. That is far from an insurmountable lead, especially with the number of three point shooters Illinois can put on the floor.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

  1. cintiphil - Dec 23, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    I saw this game as nothing else was on T-V after the Boise game was not in doubt. I agree that the Mizzou team, does look very exciting at times. I think I may have to watch them a little more when they are on T-V. The foul from my point of view was intentional, and could have been very dangerous under the basket. I kept thinking what if Tisdale drove they guy into the backboard pole? He could have broken his neck or at least cause a very serious injury. Good call by the Ref, and bad foul by Tisdale.

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