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Illini fans should be mad about the intentional foul call, but not at the ref

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Missouri’s basketball team is slowly but surely becoming must-see TV.

Back in November, the Tigers lost to Georgetown in overtime as a last-second Chris Wright three wiped out Missouri’s 18 point comeback and three straight Jason Clark triples in the extra period won the game. Two weeks later, Marcus Denmon overcame the tragedy of his cousin’s death to take over in the second half and overtime as Mizzou knocked off Vanderbilt.

Tonight’s Braggin’ Rights matchup with Illinois, a 75-64 win for the Tigers, was just as exciting as the previous two Missouri games, but it will be remembered for the wrong reasons, especially in the eyes Illini fans.

With 44 seconds left, Michael Dixon was stripped in the back court by Mike Davis, who found DJ Richardson wide open on the left wing. Richardson buried a three to cut the Missouri lead to 62-61, but in typical Missouri fashion, the Tigers remained on the attack.

Kim English inbounded the ball to Denmon who hit a streaking Laurence Bowers, who had gotten behind the Illinois defense. Bowers went in for the layup and was pushed with two hands in the back by Mike Tisdale. Bowers made the layup and Tisdale was called for an intentional foul, meaning that Missouri then got two shots and the ball back. Bowers hit both free throws, then Denmon got himself wide open for a layup on the ensuing out of bounds play.

All told, Missouri scored six points in the span of a second on a single possession, turning a 62-61 nailbiter into a 68-61 lead and almost certain win. Essentially, the call on Tisdale ended the game.

And that call, no doubt, angered the Illini fans.

Its a tough pill to swallow, and its a terrible way to end such a terrific basketball game, but in no way did the ref make an incorrect call.

The intentional foul rule was put into place, in part, to prevent injuries that occur when one player is in the air and another player fouls him without making a play on the ball. Tisdale is trailing Bowers on the play in question, and while I truly doubt that his intention was to injure Bowers, Tisdale clearly gives him a two-handed shove in the back while he is in the air. This play is precisely the situation that the intentional foul rule was created for. Tisdale was trying to foul Bowers to prevent the layup. A two-handed shove in the back is not a play on the ball.

The foul Tisdale committed is a dangerous one. Its the reason that there is a rule that punishes that particular sort of foul more harshly.

If Illini fans are going to be mad at anyone about the way the game ended, it should be Tisdale.

Bowers had him beat. If he gives up the layup, its still a one possession game with 40 ticks left. That is far from an insurmountable lead, especially with the number of three point shooters Illinois can put on the floor.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: