A thrilling finish to the Gonzaga-Western Kentucky second round NCAA tournament game was marred by an egregious officiating error, when refs failed to give the Hilltoppers a timeout after Gonzaga hit the go-ahead basket with 0.9 seconds on the clock.
Instead of granting the timeout, play continued and Western Kentucky missed a 70-foot prayer at the buzzer.
It's a grainy screenshot, but the game clock at the bottom of the screen says 0.9 and that's Western Kentucky coach Ken McDonald emphatically calling a timeout. Even worse, A.J. Slaughter, a Hilltopper guard, was also calling timeout near the baseline when his team was inbounding the ball.
The last few seconds of the game were played at a frenetic pace without any stops, which may have contributed to the confusion. Western Kentucky tied the score after a tip-in with 7.2 seconds left and, without a stop in play, Gonzaga's Demetri Goodson immediately went coast-to-coast for the go-ahead layup with 0.9.
However, there's no excuse for the refs to have missed the timeout. There were three officials on the court; at least one should have seen either McDonald or Slaughter signaling for the stoppage in play.
On CBS, Greg Anthony got it exactly right when he said the refs have to be operating under the assumption that the team with the ball will be calling a timeout in such a situation. His colleague, Seth Davis, disagreed for reasons that are still unclear. (Of course, at the same time this was happening, Davis' alma mater, Duke, was benefiting from some shady officiating in Greensboro.)
Much like with the Super Bowl, it's a shame that a great finish was marred by the incompetence of referees. In all likelihood, the final result of the game would have been the same had the refs granted the timeout. Still, in NCAA tournament history, teams have hit game-winners with less time, so there was always a chance.