Clock, light were not synchronized
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Tim Welsh had finally had enough of dissecting the call. So, the coach told his assistants in the Providence locker room to find a place that served food until at least 11 p.m.
We're not sure whether he was even able to eat, because the events of the evening had made him sick.
Blame the electrical system at the Dunkin' Donuts center if you want, but for whatever reason the clock and the red light by the basket were not synchronized. They may have been a millisecond apart at the end of overtime, but regardless the difference, the officials decided after nearly 10 minutes of deliberation that freshman P.J. Tucker's finger-roll scoop basket was good.
Texas won 79-77 in the most intense and likely debated (at least by Providence fans) ending of a game this season.
Welcome to Big Monday on ESPN, 2004.
The win could end up being a season-changing event for the Longhorns, who had beaten up on weak competition at home but been clocked in games in New York against Arizona and Duke. The loss won't crush the Friars, but it stings, especially because of the confusion that followed, making Welsh virtually ill.
To the naked eye, the call was too close to make. Tucker took an inbound pass from Royal Ivey and went the length of the court nearly untouched.
Providence's Marcus Douthit, who had been a defensive presence with three blocks, was by the basket but said later that he didn't want to commit a foul. Welsh wasn't amused that no Friar made Tucker change direction after he got the ball with 3.7 seconds left.
A split-second later ... The clock may say "0:00," but if the horn or light hasn't gone off, there is still time left in a game. According to the Big East and other officiating crews, there can be up to nine-100th of a second (0:00.09) remaining in a game. And that difference of time is why Texas' P.J. Tucker was able to get off his shot to beat Providence Monday night -- even though the clock showed zeros and the red light hadn't gone off until the ball was just off his fingertips. Arena backboard clocks are rounded up to the nearest tenths. The horn and light are in sync when the clock is at 0:0000, or when it is over down to the final tenth. But the clock won't display those smaller increments. The officials in Providence made the right call by going with the light, not the clock.
The subsequent events bordered on the surreal. The crowd was on edge, waiting to erupt with euphoria over a second overtime or ready to rumble if the call went against the Friars. Providence is the people's team in this city, and the people are as passionate for this program as any blue-collar college basketball crowd in the country.
During the deliberation, veteran Final Four-level officials Tim Higgins, John Clougherty and Robert Donato huddled a number of times, going back and forth to the monitor.
There was plenty of debating and posturing by both coaching staffs. At one point, Welsh and Texas coach Rick Barnes, who previously coached Providence and is Welsh's good friend, embraced to show that they were on the same page. But the reaction was quite different when Higgins signaled a good basket. Welsh, his jacket off and his shirt drenched in sweat, punched the air and argued to no avail.
There wasn't a rumble, but the crowd wanted one of the three men wearing black and white stripes stoned.
At least one angry fan hurled a plastic beer bottle that hit Texas walk-on Drew Gressett as he celebrated while walking off the court. The cut required three stitches.
In the hallway, the scene was just as odd. Louisville coach Rick Pitino stood stoically against a wall, waiting for his son Richard, a Providence student assistant coach. The elder Pitino had come for the day to be with his son, keeping a promise to see one of the Friars' games.
Barnes emerged first from his locker room. He said the officials told him that they would get it right.
"All the officials said was the ball was in his hands when the clock said zero, zero," Barnes said. "But you play the light. Slow it down and look at it, and the ball definitely was out of his hands when the light came on."
During the heated and emotional discussion, Barnes at one point had leaped in front of the monitor to call out that the light wasn't on. He kneeled in front of the monitor next to the officials.
What upset Welsh was his conviction that one of the officials changed the call, a charge the officials flatly denied.
The officials said in a release issued by Higgins that, "there was no call originally. In our game, 00 doesn't end the game. Game ends with horn or light. ... We looked at it so many times because we couldn't see the light."
Barnes said the officials never said the shot was no good.
"First they told me it was no good," said Welsh, who waved to the crowd and went back to his bench when he thought the official ruled it no good. "One of the referees said it was no good. So I went back to my huddle and started coaching my team, and then there was a four-person negotiation going on [he means Barnes and the three officials]. You'll have to ask them why they changed their call."
Barnes said he told the officials to just get the call right. He was willing to play five more minutes.
"Those officials have been around a long time," said Barnes, who couldn't tell what happened live. "It was close, too close to call."
Welsh, almost shaking after the game, said, "I hate to see it come down to a fingernail. We had a Final Four crew with great referees. They have made a lot of calls in their careers that were right so I'll have to go with them. I don't know if it's an electrical problem. The light should be at the same time the clock is at zero, and it wasn't.
"They say they have to go by the light, and the light came on a fraction or one millionth of a second after he released the ball," Welsh said. "It's a shame that it came down to that. It was a great college game, and our guys feel like we won."
Lost amid the furor over the ending was a sensational comeback by Providence, which spotted Texas a 28-6 lead seven minutes into the game. Junior forward Ryan Gomes, helped erase the deficit, scoring 28 points.
The Friars were without senior forward Rob Sanders, who broke two fingers Saturday in a win at Virginia and is out for a few weeks. Sanders could have helped slow the Longhorns early in the game when the zone failed.
Instead, Providence went to the press midway through the first half. The Longhorns said they had not practiced for that, and for a team trying to find a point guard, it showed, as they let the Friars back into the game.
The Longhorns are still trying to find themselves, but they desperately needed to win this game to get them in the right direction.
"We needed something good to happen," Barnes said. "We've done what we were supposed to do by winning our home games, but we're going through some growing pains. I told the team that [Providence] was definitely a top 20 team and a team that could beat anybody in the country. I knew we had to play great basketball and stay together to get a win. It was a great win, and we needed something good to happen for us."
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