Last night, Washington Wizards scout Milt Barnes, who I previously have worked with while broadcasting in the NBADL, turned to me halfway through the 2nd half and said "Boy, they sure do get loud". I looked at him and smiled knowing that the Bluejay fans who I called out after the previous game vs. Bradley had done their job creating a great atmosphere. 17,459 fans at the Qwest Center on Saturday night - a new building record. That number bears repeating - 17,459 people in Omaha, Nebraska for Southern and Creighton. Not Duke vs. North Carolina but SIU vs. CU. No single crowd has ever been larger to watch a basketball game in history of the state. Just one reason why the 58-57 loss to SIU hurt everyone coming out of the building.
Referees often get blamed for losses by fans. Bad calls are part of the game and it's something that make sports so wonderfully human. However, it's not an easy thing to watch when at the end of a game - referees influence events and ultimately, in my opinion, the outcome. Miami in the NIT last year and now SIU this year. Both 1 point losses at home that make you feel like somebody went into your house and ripped off your television. You'll live without it - but you still feel violated.
Dane Watts fouled out setting a screen right in front of me. After a night of constant contact and physical play - SIU guard Tony Young ran straight into a solid screen by Dane. The contact caused him to fall backwards and caused the ref to blow his whistle. Not because the screen was illegal but because that's what he did upon seeing Young wilt. CU's starting power forward out with about 5 minutes to play. One down - one to go.
Anthony Tolliver had been banging all night with SIU Center Randal Falker. Strangely, at the 2:30 mark of the 2nd half, the fouls were AT 4 - Falker 1. AT tried to stop a driving guard from SIU from going down the baseline at the 2:18 mark and moved his feet to shut him off. There was slight contact - but not enough contact to warrant a whistle given the fact that the Dogs did the exact same thing all night to Nate Funk whenever he touched to ball. But this wasn't a guard at the top of the key, this was a Center moving to get position - a Preseason ALL Valley Center. He got to the spot first and didn't initiate the contact. The Ref under the basket didn't see it that way.
The call sent AT to the bench with his 5th foul. It never should have happened. The result was that for the first time since Jan. 22, 2005, Creighton had two players foul out in the same contest. Johnny Mathies and Anthony Tolliver were disqualified in that overtime loss to Illinois State
I truly believe that the game winning shot that Bryan Mullins of SIU hit would never have been taken or made with AT in the game. The shot was a low line drive off the glass from an angle in the paint that he couldn't have gotten to with a shot blocker in the post. Even Dane Watts in the game might have altered the ending. Both players were DQ'd on BS calls and Jays' fans have a right to be pissed.
Yes, the team played poorly in the first 5 minutes. Yes, the team didn't guard the 3 in the 1st half. Yes, the team was up by 7 with 5 minutes to play and blew it. Yes, they had dumb turnovers in key moments of the game. Yes, they had a 3 at the buzzer that hit the backboard and then the rim. But Yes, the refs were horrible in this game.
The end of the game for CU also warrants discussing. Nick Porter with 18 seconds left drove the lane and got fouled. He hit both free throws to put the Jays up by one. However, I would have held for the final shot at that moment. Nate had done a great job of getting to the basket with the drive and it would have been open again. Johnny Mathies often got the "Iso" call from Dana with the game on the line and I thought it could have been Wichita 2006 all over again. I'm not criticizing Nick unless Dana told his team to take the last shot and Nick didn't listen. The clock stopped with the foul and gave SIU enough time to get Mullins the open shot against Nick on the other end.
Nate's desperation 3 almost was a prayer answered. Yet, against those Dogs, you're going to need more than a prayer to beat them. Can the Jays win at Carbondale on Feb. 10? Doesn't matter because right now they need a win vs. a pissed of Missouri State team on Wednesday.
I think they Jays' fans have every right to be upset this morning and bitter about their 7th straight loss to their hated rival. The Jays have lost 10 games in their history at the Qwest - 4 to SIU alone. It's sad that we have to talk about the way the game was called - but that's exactly how Chris Lowery wants it. Pressure on everyone - including the refs.
SIU was 6-8 from 3 in the 1st half. 0-6 in the 2nd.
Nick Porter was 7-7 from the line with 8 boards
Jays out rebounded SIU 30-24
After 21 turnovers vs. BU - Jays only had 12
PS - this has left me with a bad feeling about the Patriots. I pray that I'm not back on here in a few hours crying about Refs and a Adam V kick.