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No. 3 Arizona survives Colorado on controversial call

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TUCSON, Ariz. – For those who entered this week believing that the Pac-12 race was a mere formality, let the opening night of conference play be a lesson in not counting ones chickens before they hatch.

After yet another slow start No. 3 Arizona once again found a way to win, fighting all the way back to knock off Colorado 92-83 in overtime. Mark Lyons led six Wildcats in double figures with 24 points and his free throws with 8.9 seconds remaining in regulation tied the game at 80.

All that did was take a game that seemed out of reach and turn it into a contest fans of both teams won’t soon forget. Sabatino Chen appeared to bank in a three-pointer as time expired, but the officials (after much deliberation) determined that the shot was released after the red light on the backboard went on.

Was there enough evidence on the video replay to overturn the call? You make the call. Here’s the video. Here are the pictures:

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”If it’s the wrong call, I’m really, really sick to my stomach because we had guys in this locker room that deserved to win that game,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle told reporters.

The officials in charge of the proceedings didn’t have a good night at all to be frank, and that was the case well before the final sequence took place.

Whether or not the shot could have counted (official James Breeding reportedly said that the ball was still on Chen’s fingertips) is something that fans will go back and forth on for quite some time.

But what can’t be debated is the fact that Colorado once again struggled from the foul line in a close game (17-of-29 for the game), and that they had absolutely no momentum in the extra session.

Colorado was the team that jumped out of the gates ready to play, pushing their lead to as many as 13 points in the first half. However with Solomon Hill in foul trouble the Wildcats were able to claw back within striking distance, cutting the deficit to seven (34-27) at the half.

Xavier Johnson, making his first start of the season, scored ten of his 12 points in the first 20 minutes and as a team Colorado knocked down six of their nine shots from beyond the arc. Both he and Chen played their best games of the season, and while that is something the Buffaloes can build on there’s the issue of late-game execution that they must address.

Arizona’s rapidly becoming the cardiac kids of this basketball season, as they’ve found a way to survive on multiple occasions. While tonight’s outcome can be disputed, there’s no disputing the fact that there’s still much work to be done in the case of both teams.

And if this opener is a sign of what’s to come in Pac-12 play over the next two months, fasten your seat belts because this is going to be a wild ride.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

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Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.