This weekend, Illini fans were treated to one of the strangest, most head-scratching, end-of-the-game referee decisions we have seen. It was a potential game changer with about 30 seconds to go, and because of the thin margins for teams like Illinois and Michigan State, it was a potential season changer as well. Hard to give this call justice, but here it is.
Your basic hard screen-out on a bonus free throw… What you don’t see in that little clip (or actually you start to see it) is the Spartan player looks over to be sure the ref is watching, then doubles over in agony as if he’s been groin-smacked. Maybe he was… Sure doesn’t look like it. Anyway, the refs called nothing, so they went to the video screen for a replay and assessed a technical foul – fouling out Jaylon Tate, giving the Spartans two more free throws and the ball, and sending the Illini Nation into a collective rage. Fortunately the Spartans only made one FT, gave up the ball, and Illinois won in the end. But speaking to my brother and others, we can’t remember ever seeing such a poor decision, so clearly influenced by the home crowd and the reputation of the coach (Tom Izzo, Dean of Big 10 hoops coaches). This call resulted in a twitter slap-fight between ESPN talking head Dan Dakich and the mayor of Champaign, Don Gerard (no vote-trolling there). Continue reading