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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Questionable five-second call leads to Texas’ latest early exit

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

With 14.5 seconds left in Sunday's third-round NCAA tournament matchup between Texas and Arizona, the Longhorns had possession of the ball, a two-point lead and the Sweet 16 in their sights.

Only a few bewildering ticks of the clock later, Arizona was celebrating a surprising 70-69 victory and Texas was trudging off the court trying to figure out how it could possibly have messed up such a sure thing.

The key sequence began with a controversial five-second call against Texas as it tried to inbound the ball underneath its own basket. Freshman guard Cory Joseph attempted to call timeout because he couldn't find an open teammate around defensive pressure from Arizona's Jamelle Horne, but referees didn't give it to him, instead awarding the ball to the Wildcats with the deficit still at two.

Even though replays appeared to show that Joseph's timeout came before five seconds had expired, Texas coach Rick Barnes declined to blame the officials for the call.

"I'd have to see it before I really had comments, but my initial reaction was, what happened?" Barnes told reporters after the game. "The last thing Cory said to me was, 'Coach, do we have a timeout?' And I said, 'Yeah, if you have to use it and use it quick.'" {YSP:MORE}

That the referees didn't give the timeout to Joseph enabled Arizona star Derrick Williams to come through in the clutch for the second time in two games. Two days after his game-saving block preserved an opening-round win over Memphis, the All-American took a pass from Kyle Fogg, absorbed contact knifing to the basket and laid the ball in for a 3-point play.

"When I shot the ball, I was looking down so I could catch myself from a hard fall," Williams told reporters after the game. "I was surprised it went in, actually. I didn't know it went in until MoMo [Jones] picked me up."

The bucket redeemed Williams for an otherwise pedestrian 4-for-14 shooting day by his lofty standards. Unheralded teammates Solomon Hill and Jordin Mayes each picked up the slack, scoring 16 points apiece to keep the Wildcats in front most of the game.

It might have been Texas and not Arizona advancing to face Duke in the Sweet 16 had Jordan Hamilton not taken an ill-timed timeout with 14.5 seconds left instead of holding the ball and waiting to be fouled. That decision paved the way for the five-second call, Williams' heroics and another disappointingly early NCAA tournament exit for the Longhorns.

For all the talk about how this year's team had so much better chemistry and leadership than the oft-criticized group that collapsed after a 17-0 start a year ago, it didn't amount to a much different outcome.

Last year's team lost in heartbreaking fashion in the Round of 64. This year's team lost similarly in the Round of 32.

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