Referees' calls affected KU's victory and Big 12 race

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02/26/2013 5:59 PM

05/16/2014 9:17 PM

Two calls that favored Kansas in the final minute in regulation of Jayhawks’ 108-96 overtime victory over Iowa State on Monday night got plenty of post-game attention, including from the Big 12 Conference office.

After a review by the league, which happens for every call from every game, the Big 12 announced Tuesday that two officials made errors and they could lose future assignments as punishment.

Two calls stood out. With 23 seconds remaining and Iowa State leading 87-85, the Jayhawks needed to foul. Iowa State guard Korie Lucious had the ball in the backcourt. KU’s Jeff Withey made contact with Lucious and Kevin Young lunged at Lucious.

The whistle blew and Withey, with four fouls, believed he had fouled out. But when he walked to the bench, Kansas coach Bill Self motioned Withey back on to the court. Young was charged with the foul.

The final scoring sequence of regulation produced the second and more controversial call.

Elijah Johnson drove to the basket and collided with Georges Niang. Johnson missed the shot and no call was made. With the bodies on the floor under the basket, holding was called on Niang by official Bert Smith.

Had no whistle blown and the teams played on, the game would have ended with a Naadir Tharpe three-point miss and an Iowa State victory. Instead, Johnson hit both ends of a one-and-one, the second after an Iowa State timeout, with 4.9 seconds remaining.

Afterwards, Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg and Niang took the high road.

“I guess I can’t get too far into that call,” Hoiberg said. “It is what it is. It happened. You’ve got to move past. I thought Georges made a heck of a play by stepping in there and drawing contact. Hey, it happens in this game. It didn’t go our way.”

Whether it was a charge by Johnson or a block by Niang, should a foul have been called there? During the broadcast, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla was adamant that the no-call was the wrong call.

He felt just as strongly on Tuesday. “Have to reward/penalize Niang for stepping in,” Fraschilla said in a message. “In this case, it was a charge. Otherwise, why practice taking charges?”

The Big 12's statement read: "The plays have been reviewed and appropriate measures will be taken by the Coordinator of Men’s Basketball Officials to adjust the number of future assignments for the two officials involved in conjunction with Conference policies."

The officiating crew was a veteran one. Mark Whitehead worked last year’s NCAA championship game. Tom O’Neill, a 30-year veteran, has worked two title games (1991, 2009) and last year was chosen Naismith men’s college official of the year. Smith is a 19-year officiating veteran.

They, like all officials, were evaluated not only for their calls but for their position on the floor when they made or didn’t make a call.

Iowa State also is being evaluated as an NCAA Tournament candidate. The Cyclones lost a great opportunity to enhance their resume. Instead, Iowa State was stuck with another close loss. Three of the team’s six Big 12 losses have come in overtime or by single digits.

A No. 53 RPI and a 2-6 record against the RPI top 50 after Monday’s action leaves Iowa State on the bubble.

And what about Big 12 challengers Kansas State and Oklahoma State? The contenders lost a chance to gain ground. In the Wildcats’ case they would have been in first place alone, a game ahead of the Jayhawks, with a better chance of winning the program’s first league title since 1977.

The Cowboys trail the two Kansas schools, tied for first at 12-3, by a game. Oklahoma State meets the Wildcats in Stillwater to end the regular season.

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