Clock error helps Michigan State thwart Florida Gulf Coast's upset bid

Florida Gulf Coast coach Joe Dooley (AP)
Florida Gulf Coast coach Joe Dooley (AP)

An apparent last-second clock error helped Michigan State avoid a huge upset Sunday night.

The Spartans hung on for a 78-77 victory over Florida Gulf Coast after the Eagles were deprived of a fair chance to win the game on their final possession.

When Christian Terrell threw a length-of-the-floor inbound pass to Antravious Simmons with Florida Gulf Coast trailing by one and 1.6 seconds left, the buzzer sounded while the ball was still in flight. Simmons subsequently hurried his shot and badly missed a turn-around jumper. Then referees went to the monitor to review the play and deemed the game over.

The only way the clock should have started before Simmons caught ball was if the Michigan State player guarding the inbound pass tipped it while it was in flight. Florida Gulf Coast coach Joe Dooley told reporters after the game that Miles Bridges did not tip the pass, and both TV replays and a statement by referee Bo Boroski validate that stance.

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“A timing error occurred with 1.6 seconds remaining on the game clock,” Boroski told pool reporter Matt Charboneau of the Detroit News. “Since a timing error occurred, we are able to utilize the replay monitor. A stopwatch was used to determine if any time should remain on the game clock. Using a stopwatch, it was determined the ball was caught and released in 1.3 seconds, meaning if the shot would have gone in, it would have counted.

“After the miss, there was no time remaining in the game, therefore ending the game. By rule, the possession cannot be replayed. Period.”

Asked who is to blame for the timing error, Boroski said only that all three officials and the timer on the sideline have that capability.

Even if NCAA rules do not grant referees the authority to award Florida Gulf Coast with a do-over, that will provide no solace to the Eagles. It’s apparent that Simmons rushed the game’s final shot in a manner he would not have if the buzzer hadn’t sounded as he was preparing to catch the ball. The final play was designed for Simmons to catch the ball at the foul line, take one dribble and try to lay it in.


“He said he shot it because he heard the horn go off,” Dooley told reporters in East Lansing. “But you can see on the tape that he caught it at zero.”

Had Simmons’ shot fallen, it would have been a stunning blow to a Michigan State team that has already encountered plenty of early adversity.

The Spartans (2-2) lost their three top big men to significant preseason injuries and dropped their first two games of the season against Arizona and Kentucky. Considering they still have to visit Duke and take part in the loaded Battle 4 Atlantis tournament before November is over, they could not afford an unexpected loss to a Florida Gulf Coast team that entered as a 14.5-point underdog.

Thirty-one points from Eron Harris kept Michigan State in front for most of Sunday’s game, but it was his two late missed free throws that set up the controversial finish.


In the end, the Spartans could only breathe a sigh of relief and the Eagles could only shake their heads in frustration and wonder what might have been.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!