Official Doug Sirmons made the right foul call on UCLA’s Malcolm Lee with 0.7 seconds left that put Kansas’ Mario Little at the free-throw line for a game-winning free throw Thursday night in Lawrence, according to the NCAA’s head of officiating.
Little converted the free throw to give Kansas a 77-76 win over the Bruins, continuing a 64-home game win streak. Lee and Little were going for the ball when Lee reached into Little. UCLA had just tied the game at the other end on Tyler Honeycutt’s 3-pointer with five seconds remaining. UCLA coach Ben Howland said after the game, “that was a really, really a poor way to end the game on a call. Just for anybody that hasn’t seen it. It’s a loose ball, both 23, Little and Malcolm Lee are putting their hand on the ball at the same time, with 0.9 seconds left.’’
“The refs reacted properly,’’ said John Adams, the head of the NCAA’s officiating on Friday. Adams added that Sirmons was an experienced official who worked an NCAA regional last season. “The only argument you can make is whether or not it was a foul. It’s a foul. The Kansas kid has control of the ball. It’s incredibly unfortunate to end the game like that. But I’ve looked at the tape this morning and Doug called the foul like he’s supposed to.’’
Adams said he reviewed the tape over the phone with Big 12 coordinator of officials, Curtis Shaw, and they all agreed it was the appropriate call.
Howland said after the game, “Normally you wouldn’t make that kind of call at that point in the game unless it was very obvious. And from what I saw, it’s very disappointing to end the game on that note.’’
Adams said officials can’t consider how much time is left when making a call.
“It’s dangerous to read into every play in the game to see time, score and circumstances,’’ Adams said. “We do not ask [officials] to play God. If you do that, then you’re asking them to play God. If the kid has possession and gets fouled, it’s a foul. It’s incredibly unfortunate that it was at the expiration of time. In the old days you would walk away (because time appeared to have expired). But in this time we have the video to check on the monitor to see if there was time left on the clock [and there was].’’
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.