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Big Ten backs Spartans backcourt call

During Michigan’s 60-59 win over Michigan State Monday night, Keith Appling fumbled an in-bounds pass from Austin Thornton with 1:50 to play in the game.

Then, he dribbled the ball off his foot and it rolled into the backcourt. He was whistled for a backcourt violation.

Tom Izzo was livid. And it seemed as if frustration was justified because Appling didn’t appear to have control of the ball (at first glance).

Rule 4, Section 3, Article 6 of the NCAA rulebook says, “After the throw-in ends, an inbounds player in the front court, who is not in control of the ball, may cause the ball to go into the back court.”

The play and subsequent verdict were similar to a situation that occurred toward the end of Minnesota’s 58-55 win over Virginia Tech during the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Robert Brown bobbled an in-bounds pass that crossed halfcourt during that game, too. He was also whistled for a backcourt violation, but the Big Ten disciplined the official who made that crucial call (Virginia Tech was down 56-55 with 9.9 seconds to play) because Brown never had possession of the ball.

In a statement to ESPN.com Wednesday, however, Big Ten officials said the two plays were different because an official in the Michigan-Michigan State game had ruled that Appling had established control before he crossed into the backcourt. The league reviewed the call and supports the official’s decision.

“The play you reference in the Michigan-Michigan State game and the play you reference in the Minnesota-Virginia Tech game are two different situations,” said Big Ten spokesperson Valerie Todryk Krebs. “In the Minnesota-Virginia Tech game, there was never a frontcourt possession. However, in the Michigan-Michigan State game, the official ruled that there was possession in the frontcourt (Appling dribbling the ball off his foot from the frontcourt into the backcourt), which is a judgment call. The conference reviewed and supports the call.”