I was very excited to write a great recap about how Illinois State continued their winning ways against the best team in the Missouri Valley Conference, Wichita State, through the continued hard work in implementing coach Dan Muller's 2-3 zone defense and a strong team effort on offense.
And then the final minute happened.
"Refs make mistakes, I understand," Muller said.
This is indeed true. I understand that referees are human, and humans make mistakes. However, for certain things, they have the availability of instant replay in an effort to minimize the effect that their human effort has on the game, and subsequently maximize the effect that the players' effort has on the game.
Therefore, I am absolutely incensed when I see a situation in which the referees make the correct call, go to the replay monitor at the request of one head coach or the other, view the replay, and make the incorrect call based on something that never actually happened.
I walked away from the television and the computer for several hours, but even writing about it now gets me all riled up. Let me paint the scene for you.
After a tightly contested early few minutes, Illinois State started attacking Wichita State on offense and rebounding aggressively on defense, and before you knew it the score was 19-5 Redbirds.
Things evened out, largely because Jackie Carmichael and Tyler Brown, the two ISU offensive leaders, shot a combined 1-for-13 from the field in the first half. Despite that fact, the Rebirds still led 27-20 at the half.
The Shockers finally woke back up and made a game of it, but they could never come all the way back, and that was largely because of ISU's sustained aggression. When Malcolm Armstead was called for a foul with 41.2 seconds remaining after Johnny Hill made the fourteen billionth drive to the lane that managed to toss up a shot, it pushed the Redbirds to a staggering 30-for-33 from the free throw line.
And then it happened. Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall called the referees over and asked them to review the video of the preceding rebound by Carmichael for the possibility of a Flagrant 1 foul. This was huge, because it could mean, essentially, a free two points for the Shockers before resuming possession (which they would anyway after Hill's free throws).
On replay, Carmichael get's ridiculously high for the rebound, and on the way down his right foot went into the chest of Tekele Cotton, catching him right in his "Wichita" and sending him into perhaps one of the best "oh my lord I've been shot" dives of the season. I thought to myself, o.k. that was a little sloppy, and the refs have been calling this one pretty tight, so they might call a foul on Carmichael and move on from there.
I was not worried about a Flagrant 1 being called, because with all the basketball I have watched this season, I know that the rule is as such:
A flagrant 1 personal foul shall be a personal foul that is deemed excessive in nature and/or unnecessary, but not based solely on the severity of the act. Examples include, but are not limited to: . . . Illegal contact with an elbow that occurs above the shoulders of an opponent when the elbows are not swung excessively per 4.36.7a.
Officials are reminded that there can be incidental contact with the elbow above or below the shoulders; swinging of the elbow is required for the foul to be classified as a flagrant 1 or 2 foul. Some incidental contact is being penalized improperly.
And then the referees called a Flagrant 1 foul! This gave the Shockers the free throws they needed to make it a two possession game, and the rest is history.
According to Coach Muller, "they implied that [Jackie] kicked the guy in the head on purpose." There are two problems with this.
- Do you have any idea the ninja-like body control it would require to purposely kick someone in the head while you are on the way down from jumping in the air to grab a rebound?
- Much, much more importantly, Carmichael's foot was never, at any point, anywhere near Tekele Cotton's head.
"it certainly affected the game," Muller said. "[But] we did just about everything we could do wrong at the end there."
That may be true, but I can understand a team riding the high that they were, only to have their momentum derailed by a lengthy review that produced a completely imaginary foul.
I certainly hope that the Birds can recover from this and resume the torrid pace they have been on, because they've spent the last month demonstrating just how dangerous they can be when they are firing on all cylinders - and when they aren't also fighting the referees.