Were refs correct to wipe out Butler’s unlikely buzzer beater?

A length-of-the-court baseball pass. An acrobatic, lunging layup. A jubilant dog pile beneath the basket.

Yes, Butler's final play of regulation Saturday against Evansville had all the makings of a memorable game winner except for one problem: Andrew Smith's apparent tie-breaking basket didn't count.

Referees nullified Smith's shot because in their view the ball hadn't left his hand when time expired, but they ruled the Evansville defender fouled the Butler center with 0.2 seconds remaining. Smith clanked both free throws, paving the way for Evansville to christen its new arena with a controversial 80-77 victory in overtime.

It's difficult to say for sure whether the refs made the correct call because red lights behind the backboard didn't light up to signal when time expired. But if the final horn indeed sounded between when Smith was fouled and when he released the shot, then the call was correct based on A.R. 34 of the NCAA's 2011-12 Basketball Case Book.

The rule reads: "When it is determined that the foul occurred before the reading of zeros on the game clock but the try was not released before the reading of zeros, the foul shall be penalized and the goal shall not count. When it can be determined with the use of the monitor, the official shall be permitted to put the exact time on the game clock as to when the foul occurred. " {YSP:MORE}

Butler can't complain too vociferously about the referees since it squandered a 12-point second-half lead, but the final play of regulation was one of several key borderline calls that went against the Bulldogs. Not only did Evansville have a 43-24 advantage in free throws attempted, video replays confirmed that Colt Ryan was out of bounds when he stripped the ball from Smith and scored on a layup late in overtime.

Butler coach Brad Stevens did not overtly criticize the referees after the game, though he did make a pair of thinly veiled references while speaking to reporters in his postgame news conference. He said "43 to 24 probably tells the whole story" and that Ryan is "hard to guard at the free throw line."

Despite the loss, Stevens appeared to be encouraged with his team as a whole.

Smith scored 21 points on 6-for-8 shooting and tallied nine boards and four blocked shots, though he did go just 3 of 8 from the free throw line in the final 2:09 of regulation and the five-minute overtime. And Crishawn Hopkins made the most of his first career start, scoring a career-high 22 points.

Said Stevens: "What I learned today is that we're going to have a very good basketball team."

What to Read Next