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Controversy? No. 1 Syracuse avoids infamy vs. 16-seed UNC-Asheville

Mar 15, 2012, 6:01 PM EDT


Syracuse survives.

The No. 1 seed Orange, playing without Big East Defensive Player of the Year Fab Melo, got 15 points and eight boards from James Southerland off the bench as they hung on to beat a feisty UNC-Asheville team, 72-65.

Never before, in the history on the NCAA tournament on the men’s side has a No. 16 seed beaten a No. 1 seed (it happened once in the women’s tournament), and for a while it looked like the Bulldogs could end up being the first. They took a four point lead into the halftime break, but after a trio of clutch jumpers from Southerland in the second half, UNCA found themselves down 62-54 with just 2:24 left in the game.

How game compares to other 16-1 close calls

This is where the conspiracy theorists are going to make an appearance.

After a pair of buckets from the Bulldogs, cut the lead to four, Scoop Jardine made his way to the free throw line for a one-and-one. He missed the first, but JP Primm was called for a lane violation. It was a weird call, not one that you often see, but it was also the correct call. Jardine proceeded to knock down both free throws and push the lead to six.

The resilient Bulldogs weren’t done yet, however. On the ensuing possession, Jaron Lane buried a three to cut the lead to three with just over a minute left. On the inbounds, Brandon Triche had the ball clearly bounce off his hands, but the referees awarded the ball to the Orange. The presumption? They didn’t want to call a foul on UNCA (which would have been just as bad of a call) and instead gave possession to Syracuse.

UNC-Asheville player says: ‘Refs need it call, that’s it.’

(For what it’s worth, NCAA coordinator of officials said he would have given the ball to UNC-Asheville on the play in question.)

The Orange would go on to hit their next six free throws and the Bulldogs never would get another possession with the ball and a chance to tie the game.

It is a devastating way for the Bulldogs to lose, particularly for Matt Dickey. One half of UNCA’s talented senior back court — the other being JP Primm — Dickey went just 1-13 in the game. He came in as the Bulldog’s leading scorer. That hurts.

As far as I’m concerned, this performance from Syracuse had nothing to do with Fab Melo’s absence from the lineup and everything to do the presence of his distraction. Defense wasn’t the issue. Effort and focus was. And if that doesn’t change, the Orange are going to lose to Kansas State on Saturday.

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

  1. 69jaredallen69 - Mar 15, 2012 at 6:13 PM

    They missed obvious goaltending call as well…ball hit glass and then blocked. Refs covered the 2nd half spread. Tim Donaghy is laughing somewhere

    • protectthishouse54 - Mar 15, 2012 at 6:40 PM

      True. But the debacle at the end of the first half was just as bad. Triche didn’t get the shot off before the clock expired, but was clearly hacked (and the foul was called) before the violation. Officials went to replay and still made the wrong call. Should have been two shots.

      • judgeth - Mar 15, 2012 at 6:49 PM

        No one even mentioned it. That killed me.

  2. JohnCassillo - Mar 15, 2012 at 8:01 PM

    While ‘Cuse did play poorly and there were some questionable calls, the incident at the end of the first half (see above) is an example of it going the other way. While it’s not the best scenario — to collect a scrutinized win — a victory’s a victory in the NCAAs, and SU moves on.

    Also noticed the thread on Twitter literally crushing Syracuse and its fans (of which, I am one) all game. Fine with criticism, but at least make it warranted. For every game Syracuse was “handed by the refs” (debatable), there’s another — both this year and in the past — where the referees were definitively not in our favor. Those of us who regularly watch their games (or any college basketball, for that matter) know that these things happen both ways and usually even out.

  3. cw3214 - Mar 15, 2012 at 8:34 PM

    There is a difference between one call in the first half and three calls within like a 4 minute span when the game is on the line.

    • protectthishouse54 - Mar 16, 2012 at 10:17 AM

      Where was the outrage during last year’s tourney, when in the final minutes of the Syracuse/Marquette game, Marquette was gifted an over and back call. At least in this instance, the refs knew the rules.

  4. cbadjon - Mar 15, 2012 at 10:54 PM

    The call at the end of the half was correct. The shot was not off before the shot clock wound down, therefore nullifying the attempt and also cancelling out any opportunity for a foul. Come on, read a rule book guys.

    Those call at the end were really bad. (FYI, I was at the game) The out of bounds call, the non-double dribble call on the breakaway, the non-goal tending call, the flagrant elbows thrown to the face of #2 for UNCA.

    I am not a fan of either team, nor dislike either team. Nor am I one to say that refs are intentionally throwing the game.

    I won’t say that this time either…I will say that it was the poorest officiating I have ever seen in a Div IA game. Consistently bad throughout the game. I dont know if UNCA would have won, they still had to hit a 3 and have everything fall into place, but the refs didnt even give them a shot.

    • meaz23 - Mar 16, 2012 at 12:22 AM

      What a genius you are (ha, ha, ha). Triche was hacked before he shot the ball and before the shot clock expired so there should have been 2 shots. Any intelligent person, that excludes you, would not need a rule book to know that. Go Orange.

    • protectthishouse54 - Mar 16, 2012 at 10:26 AM

      You can’t make these judgements from being in the stands. The flagrant elbows? Watch it on TV, and you’ll realize that Christmas was getting mugged and the UNCA player ELBOWED HIS OWN MAN IN THE FACE!

      There were two poor goaltending calls in the game. One that was called (which should have been a block by Keita) and one that wasn’t called (the goaltend by SU). In my mind, those cancel out.

      The out of bounds play was either out of bounds to UNCA or a foul. Before the ball landed out of bounds, Triche was undercut by another player. Not why he lost the ball, but still a foul.

      As for the lane violation… it was a tough break, but it was clearly a blatant violation. In the NBA, you can enter the lane as soon as the ball is released. In college, you must stay outside the 3-point line and behind the free throw line extended until the ball hits the rim. It wasn’t even close as the UNCA player was under the basket when it hit the rim. Youtube it. Blatant violation. The refs can’t choose when to ignore violations during the game.

      • slowclyde86 - Mar 16, 2012 at 10:51 AM

        Syracuse fans are funny.

        Asheville got robbed. Rationalize all you want, but everyone not rooting for Syracuse saw what happened. Stop deluding yourself.

  5. old97 - Mar 16, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    I guess I’m missing something. How was the lane violation the correct call? I didn’t see anything that came close to a lane violation. That call was a major swing moment coming down the stretch. It looked like complete science fiction to me.

    You can argue the out-of-bounds call (I guess) and the others, but the lane violation was a terrible, terrible call that no D-1 ref had any business making. I’m no tinfoil-hatted conspiracy nut, but I sure am questioning the reasoning behind that call and the others.

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