This season has featured a change to the block/charge rule.
In an effort to prevent weak-side defenders from planting themselves under the rim to try and draw a charge, the NCAA has put in a charge circle. Its not quite as far out as the NBA’s charge circle, but its there, and its something new that college refs have to pay attention too. As much as in any season that I can remember, people have been complaining about the inconsistency of this call in the college game, and the thinking is that it is because the refs aren’t used to having to determine where a player’s feet are at the same time they have to decide if that player is in good defensive position.
Why am I bringing this up?
Because the talk of No. 4 Missouri’s come-from-behind, 74-71 win over No. 8 Kansas on Saturday night is going to be a questionable charging call on Thomas Robinson. The call came after Marcus Denmon scored a tough, and-one layup to cut the Jayhawks’ lead to 71-66. Robinson drove the lane to his right hand and spun back to his left, making contact with Steve Moore on the spin as he knocked down a floater in the lane. Instead of having the chance to answer Denmon’s and-one with one of his own, the basket was waved off and Missouri headed in the other direction.
On the ensuing possession, Denmon hit a tough three curling off of an in-screen. After Missouri regained possession on a Tyshawn Taylor turnover, Denmon buried another three, this time from deep in the corner with a hand in his face. All of a sudden, instead of shooting a free throw to take an eight point lead, Kansas found themselves down one with less than a minute left in the game.
That’s a helluva swing.
And it will be easy for Kansas fans the blame this loss on that call, not to mention a similar charge that was called on Taylor with 42 seconds left in the game and Kansas trailing by a point.
But pinning the final result of this game on a little bit of home-cooking would be unfair and incorrect, because the fact of the matter is that, in the final two minutes, Missouri executed and Kansas didn’t. The Jayhawk’s final six possessions included four turnovers, two missed free throws and a prayer from Elijah Johnson that hit nothing but backboard after he passed up an open look at a game-tying three. That’s not the kind of late-game execution that wins you basketball games.
More importantly, despite a sensational first half from Taylor where he scored 17 of his 21 points and 25 points and 13 boards from Robinson, the Jayhawks lost. Why? Those pesky turnovers. Taylor and Robinson combined for 11, which is far too many when you consider how much of a role those two play in Bill Self’s offensive attack.
That said, those turnovers and Denmon’s heroics overshadowed the fact that Missouri lost their composure a bit in the second half.
One of the biggest reasons that Missouri has been this successful thus far this year has been their ability to attack in transition when they have numbers and recognize when there is no advantage to be had, pulling the ball out and running offense in the half court. They didn’t do that for much of the second half. Whether is was ill-advised passes, forced penetration into the paint or poor shot-selection with a lot of time left on the shot clock, the Tigers allowed Kansas to take control of the game.
It seemed like the Tigers allowed the moment to get to them. With how much this game meant to the fans and the players of both teams, there was so much emotion in Mizzou Arena. When Kansas made their surge and took seven and eight point leads, the Tigers were trying to get it all back in one possession. The same thing happened in the loss at Oklahoma State.
And that’s concerning. As good as Denmon is, he’s not going to score 29 points — or nine points in the span of a minute — every time the Tigers find themselves in a hole. He’s not going to be able to bail the Tigers out in every game they play with a raucous atmosphere where the other team makes a run. With home dates left against Baylor, Kansas State and Iowa State and a return trip to the Phog — which will be as anticipated as any game this season — in their future, Missouri is going to have plenty of games on national television with plenty on the line. They cannot get flustered in the second half.
They cannot wait for Denmon to come rescue them.
But it sure is nice knowing that he can if he has to.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.