PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP)—The three officials watched the tape over and over. Then they looked at it a few more times.
Finally, P.J. Tucker’s shot in the lane at the overtime buzzer was ruled good and No. 18 Texas had a 79-77 victory over No. 25 Providence in one of the wildest games of the season.
“It was funny feeling,” Texas’ Royal Ivey said. “I was saying if we have to play another 5 minutes, let’s play.”
One overtime turned out to be enough.
Donnie McGrath hit a 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds left in the overtime to bring Providence into a 77-77 tie. Texas inbounded the ball under its own basket after a timeout and Tucker, a freshman, took the pass at the opposite 3-point line.
He dribbled behind his back near midcourt and continued on to the lane, letting the ball go as the red light on the backboard went on and the buzzer sounded.
The officials went to the scorer’s table to watch the replay and they watched it several times. After a delay of about seven minutes, referee Tim Higgins finally strode to midcourt and ruled the basket good, drawing the ire of the crowd of 12,993, who had seen the Friars come back from a 21-point deficit in the first half and from down nine with 5:18 to go in regulation.
“By rule, any basket at the buzzer had to be reviewed,” Higgins said. “The first eight times we watched it we couldn’t see the light go off because of the ball and three zeros does not end a game, the light does. We finally saw a side view and after 10, 15 times it was clear the ball was out of his hand at the light.”
At first there was a crowd around the monitor, then the officials chased away the coaches and several players. With Higgins on his knees in front of the monitor and wearing headphones, the crowd was growing restless.
“The refs huddled and told us to go away. We both felt it was going to go another 5 minutes,” Providence coach Tim Welsh said. “I stayed away and one of the refs told me it was no good. When he said that I went and started coaching my team for 5 more minutes. Then I look up and there’s a heated four-way conversation going on. Then they told me the ball was released before the red light came on but the red light and clock weren’t in sync. The ball was definitely in his hand when the clock showed three zeros, there was no dispute about that.”
Texas coach Rick Barnes said he simply told the refs to “get it right.”
“If it’s good it’s got to count and they took a look and saw the red light didn’t go off before he let it go even though he still had it in his hands with the three zeros showing,” Barnes said.
Tucker, who finished with 13 points and nine rebounds, said it was his first game-winning shot at any level.
“I just shot it and didn’t know if it was good or not,” he said.
Ivey, a senior guard, had a career-high 22 points for the Longhorns (8-2), who won away from home for the first time this season in three games. Brandon Mouton, who missed the last game with a leg injury, had 20 points for Texas.
“This was a huge game for us,” Mouton said. “It was huge in terms of getting respect from around the country.”
Ryan Gomes had a season-high 28 points for the Friars (8-2), who entered the Top 25 earlier Monday for the first time in almost three years and had a five-game winning streak snapped.
“It’s tough but that’s the thing about college basketball, you’re going to win some and this was a tough one to lose,” Gomes said. “We thought we should have won but instead it goes in the loss column.”
Texas led 32-11 in the first half as the Friars went 13:22 before getting their first field goal. It came on their 10th shot of the game but the problem for Providence was 10 turnovers. The Friars were able to get within 41-33 at halftime.
“We came out and played as well as we did all year,” Barnes said, “but then we weren’t prepared for their press and that hurt us.”
Gomes had six points in a 12-0 run that gave Providence a 74-71 lead on two free throws by McGrath with 30 seconds left. Ivey hit a 3 with 15 seconds left to tie it and both teams missed a shot over the final 9.5 seconds.
Tucker scored on a tip-in and later added a free throw to put Texas up 77-74 with 21 seconds left in the overtime. McGrath hit a 3 from the right corner with 3.7 seconds left to tie it and set the stage for Tucker’s long drive.
Both Texas losses were in Madison Square Garden, to Arizona and Duke.
The game was a homecoming for Barnes, the head man at Providence from 1988-94. He compiled a 108-76 record and took the Friars to three NCAA tournaments.
“Coming back here was a lot more emotional than I thought it would be,” Barnes said.