Believe it or not, Delaware State — a team that has now had six of their last seven games either come down to the final possession or go to overtime, with five of them resulting in a win — has managed to find a new and unique way to lose a game in the final minutes.
After finding themselves down 41-24 to lowly Morgan State at the half, the Hornet’s dynamic back court duo of Tahj Tate and Jay Threat led DSU all the way back, tying the game on a driving layup from Threat with 23 seconds left in the game. But on the other end of the floor, Ian Chiles drew a foul and hit 1-2 from the line with 7.8 seconds left, setting up a wild finish that was equal parts memorable and controversial.
Threat drives the lane and misses a layup off the back of the rim, but Tate is there to slam home a two-handed tip-dunk on what appeared to be a buzzer-beating play. The student section stormed the floor while members of the DSU bench rushed Tate.
It was a wild scene.
“The fans all ran onto the floor. Not the whole crowd, but I would say, from my perspective, about 50 kids were on the floor,” Scott Klatzkin, who calls Delaware State games for 1290 am The Ticket, said Monday night. “I don’t know if they reacted to the fans or what, but our bench got up and mobbed Tahj, too. The fans are on the floor, security’s on the floor, the entire DSU staff is on the floor trying to get people out of there.”
The problem? There were still 0.4 seconds left showing on the clock, so after huddling up for a couple of minutes, the refs decide to whistle the Hornets for a technical foul and put 1.1 seconds on the game clock. Morgan State his both to win the game, 73-72.
“I feel like we was cheated,” Tate told USA Today. “They said the tech was for our bench for rushing the floor, but I didn’t see it.”
By the book, the refs probably made the correct decision. When a home team’s fans and bench all run onto the court with time left on the clock, the rule says that a technical foul should be called. And while I don’t necessarily believe that a game needs to be called differently down the stretch — a foul is a foul regardless of when it is committed, but on the last possession of the game, I think you let the ticky-tack stuff go — I do believe that the referees should have shown more discretion in this instance.
According to Klatzkin, there was some confusion with the clock on the final possession. Not only did it appear to start early on the in-bounds, there was a apparently some speculation that the clock may have stopped early on Tate’s dunk attempt. Even in the time was managed correctly, the students that did run onto the court clearly believed that the game was over and the final buzzer had sounded. These weren’t fans throwing things onto the court because they disagreed with a call. This was a case of college kids participating in a time-honored and fully accepted tradition of storming the court after what they thought was a big win.
There was no intent. It was an honest mistake. And the refs allowed that honest mistake to not only cost DSU a win in a thrilling comeback, but to eliminate them from contention for the MEAC regular season title and to clinch the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament. The seeding is big. Not only is Delaware State going to be forced into a tougher first-round matchup, they will have to play games on three straight days instead of getting a day off in-between.
For the record, in Creighton’s 81-79 win over Long Beach State on BracketBusters Weekend, the Bluejay faithful stormed the floor with 0.3 seconds left in the game. No technical foul was given in that game.
And none should have been given to DSU.
You may disagree, but having the outcome of such an incredible game determined by a pre-mature court-storm seems unnecessary and unfair.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.