Tad Boyle might have dosed off for a little while between 2 and 4 a.m., early Friday morning in his hotel room in Tucson, but the Colorado basketball coach said he didn't get much sleep after watching his team lose a game he and many others around the nation believed it had won Thursday evening at No. 3 Arizona.
Senior Sabatino Chen banked in a 3-point shot at the buzzer that would have given the Buffaloes an 83-80 victory over the unbeaten Wildcats in the first Pac-12 Conference game for both teams. But officials reviewed the play courtside on television monitors and said the ball didn't leave Chen's hands in time and the deflated Buffs went on to lose in overtime.
Friday morning as Boyle and the Buffs prepared to board a bus for the drive north to Tempe, Ariz., where they will face Arizona State on Saturday, the third-year CU coach said he still hadn't talked with Ed Rush, the Pac-12 Conference coordinator of basketball officials. Boyle said he hoped to speak with Rush during the bus ride.
“I just want to know what their stance is,” Boyle said. “The result is not going to change, but after a tough, emotional loss like that and the way we lost, I'd just like to get their take on it after having a chance to review it. But it's not going to change anything.”
Television viewers were shown multiple angles of the play immediately after it unfolded as well and the best view seemed to be from the side, which appeared to show the ball barely out of Chen's hands with .1 second left on the official game clock above the basket. Still photos of the moment made the rounds on Twitter but most of those photos focused on the television clock and not the official game clock.
Rush issued a statement to ESPN early Friday morning after conducting his review of the controversial ending. Rush said the officials made the correct call.
"Game officials reviewed video replays of the end of regulation in accordance with NCAA playing rules and determined the ball was still on the shooters' fingertips when the official game clock on the floor expired,” Rush said. “Per Conference protocol, the officials conducted a thorough review court side and viewed multiple angles of the play before confirming the ruling. I have reviewed the video replays and agree with the ruling."
Boyle said he believes the use of video replay should be abandoned in NCAA basketball and players, coaches and officials should live and die with the human error element of the game.
Boyle said he has never faced a challenge of having to rally his team from a controversial call turning a game in an opponents favor and he and his staff spent plenty of time late Thursday night and early Friday morning discussing the best way to move forward and put the Arizona game behind them.
“I think that is the biggest thing that we have to concern ourselves with as a staff,” Boyle said. “It's not what happened. It's not all the things that went on with the call and the game last night. We've got to learn from it.
“...We talked to (players) about it this morning and we'll talk to them about it again this afternoon at practice. We have two messages to our team. No. 1 is life isn't fair, so don't feel sorry for yourself, and No. 2 is we have to try to control the things that we can control because there are so many things in life that you can't control. Replays and officials' calls and things like that are examples of things you can't control. We have to control things that we can control in terms of how we rebound, how we defend and how we shoot free throws.”
To Boyle's credit, he acknowledged the Buffs put themselves in a bad situation at the end of regulation by making too many mistakes down the stretch as Arizona ratcheted up the pressure defensively and hit clutch shots offensively.
Colorado surrendered a 10-point lead in less than 2 minutes by turning the ball over multiple times and missing five free throws in that span. The Buffs, who had led by as many as 17 points in the first half, missed 12 free throws in the game, continuing a season-long trend of inconsistency at the foul line.
“Obviously, not well enough to win,” Boyle said of how his team played late in the game. “That's what we have to concentrate on and learn from is how we played down the stretch. It was a tough environment. I look at the stat sheet and the things that jump out at me is they outrebounded us by 11, they shot 60 percent in the second half and we shot 58 percent from the foul line. That wasn't good enough. You've got to make free throws on the road. We didn't play enough down the stretch to win the game. That's why we didn't win the game.
“Those are the things we have to look at, we have to learn from and we have to correct.”