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Did referees miss Kentucky pulling a switcheroo at the free throw line?

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

UPDATE: A Kentucky spokesman denied that the Wildcats intentionally tricked referees and offered the following explanation via Twitter on Sunday afternoon.

"Our bench argued that Poythress was the shooter & the official notified the official scorer that #22 was the shooter," Kentucky executive associate athletic director for external operations DeWayne Peevy tweeted. "After seeing the tape, it might have been the wrong call but it wasn't a switch-a-roo. It was confirmed to the official scorer."

Even though Kentucky lost by three points at rival Louisville on Saturday, nobody can say the Wildcats didn't do everything possible to pull off the upset.

They even appear to have tried to reverse their poor free throw fortunes by switching foul shooters without referees noticing.

When referees whistled Louisville's Russ Smith for a foul with 1:05 to go before halftime for hooking the arm of Nerlens Noel on an attempted steal, the Kentucky center initially goes to the foul line as expected. Noel then wanders off the line to get instruction from the Kentucky bench, allowing wing Alex Poythress to slip in unnoticed and replace him.

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Even though Poythress was only a mediocre 68.1 percent free throw shooter entering play on Saturday, that's still significantly better than Noel's 53.3 percent prior to the Louisville game. Poythress made the first and missed the second, a point that ultimately made no difference as the Cardinals held off a late Kentucky rally and won 80-77.

It's possible Poythress took the foul shots because he thought he drew a blocking foul on Montrezl Harrell as he drove baseline before dishing to Noel, but the majority of the evidence suggests that wasn't the call that was made. The referee who blew his whistle did so after Smith's foul and pointed directly at Smith. Plus, the play-by-play in the box score attributes the foul to Smith.

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If the switcheroo was intentional, perhaps karma ended up biting Kentucky. Poor foul shooting was one of the main reasons the Wildcats lost as they made just 11 of 23 free throws Saturday, with Poythress uncharacteristically clanking four of his six.

(Thanks, @Mengus22)

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