Referees had UConn and Marquette line up the wrong way to start overtime (photo via CollegeBasketballTalk)
When Junior Cadougan buried a deep 3-pointer at the end of regulation to send Tuesday night's Big East game between Marquette and UConn to overtime, he didn't just propel the Golden Eagles to an 82-76 win.
He also paved the way for one of the more unlikely officiating gaffes of the college hoops season.
Referees allowed Marquette and UConn to face the wrong baskets for the opening tipoff of overtime, which resulted in Shabazz Napier attempting a layup on the incorrect goal and Golden Eagles defender Jamil Wilson goaltending in an effort to block it. Only after the possession was over did the referees realize their mistake, stop play and confer for several minutes in an effort to figure out how to handle the unusual situation.
What they decided was to wipe out the two points UConn would have received because it's not possible to goaltend on your own basket and to award the ball to Marquette since the possession arrow favored the Golden Eagles. Based on a close examination of the NCAA rulebook, however, that wasn't the appropriate ruling.
According to Rule 5, Section 1, Article 3: "When the official(s) permits a team to go in the wrong direction, and when the error is discovered all activity and time consumed shall count as though each team had gone in the proper direction. Play shall be resumed with each team going in the proper direction."
Big East coordinator of officiating Art Hyland acknowledged via email late Tuesday night that the officials erred nullifying the goaltending call and taking two points from UConn.
Said Hyland, "The ruling of the officials would have been correct if the same play had happened because of player confusion and not because of the officials lining them up in the wrong direction."
There's no way of knowing whether UConn scoring the first points of overtime would have altered the final outcome, but it certainly didn't help the Huskies' bid to start league play with a big road win. Marquette instead jumped out in front on a Cadougan jumper on the ensuing possession and took the lead for good with 1:50 remaining on a 3-pointer from Vander Blue.
Many coaches in Kevin Ollie's shoes would have been steamed that an officiating error cost their team a basket, but credit the first-year UConn head coach for handling the situation with class. Ollie told the Hartford Courant the missing two points weren't the reason his team lost and the officiating blunder merely got overtime started in a bizarre way.
There was one group of people who probably weren't so forgiving: Gamblers who bet on UConn to cover the spread. Marquette entered the game a 5.5-point favorite. Thanks in part to the disallowed basket, the Golden Eagles' margin was six.
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