Refs made correct no-call in K-State/Xavier game

When one team (Team A) is up by three points and time is running down, it’s a fairly common strategy to foul the opposing team (Team B) before they can get a three-point shot off to tie the game. That way, they have to go to the free throw line where Team A has a great chance of securing the rebound and closing out the game. If Team B makes both free throws, Team A still has a one-point lead and the ball with just a few seconds left on the clock.

That’s what Kansas State tried to do at the end of regulation last night. When the officials failed to call a foul on Denis Clemente and instead whistled Chris Merriewether for clubbing Xavier’s Terrell Holloway after he had entered the act of shooting a three-pointer, Len Elmore said over and over that the refs missed the first foul.

Here is a video of the highlights from the game. The entire video is worth watching, but the sequence I’m talking about starts at about the 0:35 mark.

Doesn’t look like much, does it? Clemente’s left arm did commit a foul on the front of Holloway’s body, but the view of the officials on the baseline and the near sideline were both blocked and the official behind Holloway and Clemente couldn’t see through Holloway’s body to call the foul. Clemente’s right arm just grazed Holloway’s back, and it wasn’t enough for the rear official to blow his whistle. Elmore reiterated his point as CBS showed the replay a few times, but he didn’t account for the position of the officials.

Two areas in which K-State failed in this situation: 1) Clemente did a poor job of taking the foul. He should have essentially wrapped up Holloway and stopped his progress (without tackling him). He needs to be aware of where the officials are — he should have grabbed around Holloway’s waist with his right hand, turned Holloway’s hip, forcing the ref to make the call. 2) Before the possession, Frank Martin should have told his three smartest players to each go up to an official and explain what they wanted to do. “Sir, we’re going to be looking to foul on the floor when they cross half court.” That way, the refs would be aware of K-State’s intentions and would be looking for the foul.

In his infinite wisdom, Jason Whitlock described the play this way:

Leading by thee points with 9 seconds left in regulation, the refs ignored Clemente’s foul and instead waited 2 seconds and whistled Chris Merriewether for a foul while Xavier’s Terrell Holloway was pulling the trigger on a three-pointer.

They didn’t ignore the foul — they couldn’t see it due to the positions of the different players on the court. You can’t blow the whistle because you think you see something, you blow it because you see it. And what about Merriewether’s bonehead move to foul Holloway in the act of shooting? Once Holloway got past Clemente, Merriewether should have known at that point to let Holloway go without fouling. Instead, he raked him across the arm and sent him to the line to shoot three free throws.

Ultimately, K-State prevailed, and in that sense we’re lucky — if the Wildcats had lost, half of the state of Kansas would be going ballistic this morning.

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