When Kansas State's Jacob Pullen missed an off-balance shot in the lane with less than six minutes to play in the first half, Samuels appeared to be there for a one-handed put-back slam. Bizarrely enough, the ball went three-quarters of the way down the net and then slingshotted back out, a symbol of the Wildcats' star-crossed season if ever there was one.
Referees did not award Samuels with a bucket, which appears to be the proper call according to Rule 4, Section 33 of the NCAA rulebook. That states a shot only counts when "a live ball that is not a throw-in enters the basket from above and remains in or passes through."
"It's no goal," confirmed Al Battista, a longtime collegiate referee and co-author of the book "Beyond the Rules." "They got it right. It never passed through, so it doesn't count."
Battista hadn't seen the play in question yet, but he recalled a couple of similar plays during his refereeing career. While most in-and-out shots happen on jumpers, he said the only way a ball could get that far through the hoop and pop out would be on an awkward dunk attempt such as the one from Samuels.
The player who seemed most surprised by Saturday's play was Kansas State's Curtis Kelly, who roared with delight as though the Wildcats had just scored two points only to learn seconds later that the bucket didn't count.
For a Kansas State team that began the year in the top five and now needs a February surge to even make the NCAA tournament, the lesson here is simple: No matter what the situation is, always expect the worst.