UK Men's Basketball

Ex-ref saw basket interference in LSU win over Kentucky, but mistakes happen

Basket interference should have been called. Tuesday’s Kentucky-LSU game should have gone into overtime. But given how hard it is to call goal-tending or basket interference in real time, it’s understandable that a mistake was made.

That’s how longtime college basketball referee John Clougherty saw the climactic basket that gave LSU a 73-71 victory.

Kavell Bigby-Williams tipped in Skylar Mays’ shot at the buzzer. Clougherty, who later worked as the Atlantic Coast Conference’s coordinator of officials before retiring, said he watched the game while dining with an ACC coach.

“They kept showing the shot above the rim,” he said of the many replays, “and it looked clearly to me that the ball had not totally cleared the cylinder.”

Basket interference occurs when a player touches the ball while any part of it is within the cylinder, wrote Art Hyland, the secretary/editor of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee, in an email.

Clougherty defended the referees (Joe Lindsay, Tony Greene and Patrick Evans) for missing the call.

“That was not an easy play,” he said. “That wasn’t one you’d say, ‘How could they possibly miss that?’”

When asked to describe the degree of difficulty associated with calling goal-tending or basket interference, Clougherty said, “Oh, it’s really hard. . . . Kids blocking the ball now, so many times you question, ‘Did it hit the backboard before he blocked it? Or did he block it into the backboard?’

“I’ve always felt, with the players as talented as they are, as much as they play above the rim, how many basket interference plays that happen that don’t get called? I’d think probably a lot.”

After the game, it was noted that as Mays launched a floater, UK’s EJ Montgomery and PJ Washington had their hands in the net as they rose to try to block the shot.

Their hands in the net did not constitute goal-tending, the NCAA’s national coordinator for men’s basketball officiating, J.D. Collins, wrote in an email.

“Neither of these actions came anywhere near the ball,” Collins wrote.

Goal-tending might have been called if the officials judged that the UK players caused the basket or backboard to vibrate, Collins said.

Of assessing goal-tending or basket interference, Collins wrote, “Officials must judge these type of things 75, 80 times a night.”

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee has discussed including such judgment calls in what referees can review on the sideline monitor, Hyland said. But several “unacceptable and unintended consequences” caused the committee to choose not to approve the change, he said.

After Bigby-Williams’ tip-in, the referees went to the sideline monitor to review the play. The referees were checking to see how much, if any, time should be put back on the clock.

By rule — Rule 11, Section 1, Article 4 — such a review cannot be used for a judgment call like goal-tending or basket interference.

In his postgame news conference, UK Coach John Calipari suggested that such reviews should be allowed when plays occur in the decisive final seconds or minutes of a game.

Calipari is not alone. “There is a growing feeling among many people involved in the game that there are too many reviews, and that they take too long,” Hyland wrote. “Based on these sentiments, the rules committee has been hesitant to allow more instant replay reviews unless there are compelling reasons to do so.”

Although such a review “would have saved that (UK-LSU) game,” Clougherty expressed reservations about the referees going to a sideline monitor more often.

“The game is long enough . . . ,” he said. Where do you stop expanding the use of the monitor? What would be next? That would be my misgiving.”

Although he believed basket interference should have been called, Clougherty applauded how the referees handled the review to see if any time should be put back on the clock. He noticed how Evans consulted with Calipari as the review began.

When Lindsay gave the safe sign indicating the game was over, Calipari did not protest.

“So the referees told him what they were looking at,” Clougherty said.

Jerry Tipton has covered Kentucky basketball beginning with the 1981-82 season to the present. He is a member of the United States Basketball Writers Association Hall of Fame.
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