The ultimate stomach punch. The proverbial nail in the Huskies coffin. Just another blow in an already disappointing 2009-10 men's basketball season. Call it what you will, the ending of last night's UConn-Syracuse game was such an incompetent performance by a referee, that Tim Donaghy must be proud.
On a night that saw the Huskies put together a 16-point comeback in the final 11 minutes, where Kemba Walker single-handedly took over the game over the same stretch and with Gavin Edwards providing a much needed lift from the low post; the heart, determination, poise and pure grit the Huskies left on that court was all for naught because of not just one, but a series of ridiculous, mind-blowing and gut wrenching calls made by the already despised Big East officals. But none was more preposterous than the one John Cahill made with 35 and two tenths seconds remaining on the Carrier Dome scoreboard.
Syracuse's Andy Rautins had just missed a three from in front of the Orange bench and the rebound went long and fell into the hands of 'Scoop' Jardine, who drove to the basket, had his shot blocked by Edwards and subsequently rebounded by Connecticut's Stanley Robinson. The whistle then blew. Everyone thought the Huskies had called timeout from the fans at the Dome to the UConn campus in Storrs. For Huskies fans, the unthinkable was about to happen; the score was tied and UConn was in possession with the shot clock all but turned off. The Huskies had a chance for their second signature win of the season and their first road win all year.
Well, what happened next was the unthinkable for Connecticut fans, but for all the wrong reasons. Inexplicably, Cahill signaled it was Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim who called timeout. Wait, umm, what? Didn't Robinson have the ball? Wasn't UConn in possession? Looking back at replay after replay, Cahill did not signal timeout until AFTER Robinson had possession. What made it even better is the refs added more time than when Cahill actually blew his whistle to stop play. Confused? Join the club.
Let's go over this again. Jardine's shot was blocked and rebounded by Connecticut with 35.2 seconds to go before the whistle blew as is evident by video from the ESPN broadcast. Stopping play, granting Boeheim timeout and subsequently adding time to the clock is the referees way of saying here you go Syracuse, you get a re-do.
From ESPN's Andy Katz this morning: "A veteran official said late Wednesday it did not appear official John Cahill granted a timeout to Syracuse before the possession changed hands to Connecticut, in what was a critical call in a 65-65 game with 36.6 seconds left."
A veteran official is not needed to explain to any casual basketball fan what was seen on video. In fact, Connecticut did not even need possession to disqualify the timeout. Once the ball left Jardine's hands on the shot attempt, a timeout request becomes inconsequential. The mere fact that Boeheim asked for a timeout should not matter because Cahill did not acknowledge his request until Connecticut already had possession. It would have been just as aggregious an error had Cahill stopped play immediately after Jardine had shot, never mind waiting until UConn had the ball.
Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun, who missed his seventh consecutive game, was not in attendance on Wednesday and it was probably best he was not, given the Huskies recent history with Mr. Cahill. Just to remind some, Cahill is the same man who called Gavin Edwards for a much disputed foul with .7 seconds remaining in a tie game at Cincinnati earlier this season. The call gave the Bearcats two free throws which were the deciding factor in the game back in late December.
The 2009-10 Big East men's basketball season has been known more for disputed calls than for the actual play of the student athletes. A foul one night is not necessarily a foul the next. This has been the case for years, but this season the referees are making mistakes at the biggest spots of games and not just in games involving the Huskies (see this year's West Virginia-Louisville game).
Somehow, the Huskies need to forget what happened to them in upstate New York last night and prepare for a rematch with the Bearcats on Saturday. If the Big East offices in Providence have any sense, John Cahill will not be in attendance at the XL Center.