LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Tyrel Reed sat in a chair and discussed his great first half and costly final turnover after the electrifying game with a controversial ending was complete, and then I asked him about the foul called that led to Mario Little's game-winning free throw with less than a second remaining.
"I don't know if I like it," Reed said. "But it happened."
Worth noting: Tyrel Reed is not a UCLA Bruin. He's a
In other words, Reed played for the winning team Thursday night and even he didn't feel great about the way this thriller of a non-league showdown between two of America's top basketball programs at one of the sport's best basketball arenas ended, which ought to tell you something. Typically, only the coaches and players on the wrong end of a 77-76 game decided by a did-you-really-call-that foul with 0.7 seconds left are upset afterward, but that wasn't the case here at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks, to their credit, accepted the victory with what can best be described as an I-guess-we'll-take-it attitude. The Bruins? They were downright angry.
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"That's like one of the worst ways to lose," said UCLA's Tyler Honeycutt. "I'd rather somebody make a half-court shot than to call a foul. As refs you're supposed to just let that go. We've been playing our heart out all night. You got to let us get on to overtime and finish that game."
"I looked at the ref and he was signaling a foul, and I was shocked," said UCLA's Malcolm Lee, otherwise known as the player who was whistled for the foul. "To lose the game off a tacky foul and then the free throws at the end, that's kind of hard."
Everything happened so fast and just after Honeycutt had drained a long 3-pointer to tie the score with four seconds remaining that it was difficult to tell what was going on while it was going on, but the replay shows it was basically a loose-ball foul whistled against UCLA at the worst possible time, and that's if you think it was a loose-ball foul at all. Truth is, you can see whatever you want to see in that replay. If you want it to be Lee fouling Little, it's there. If you want it to be two players making incidental contact while reaching for a loose ball, that's there, too. But regardless of what you see, the reality is that a referee blowing the whistle at that time with these stakes is a crummy way to have the outcome of a game decided, and it ruined an otherwise terrific night.
I mean, I'm writing about a whistle instead of Honeycutt.
Because Honeycutt was splendid.
He made 11-of-15 shots from the field -- including 5-of-6 from 3-point range -- and finished with 33 points in 38 minutes. The 6-foot-8 wing looked like a high-level NBA prospect for the NBA scouts in attendance, dropping shots from all sorts of places in all sorts of ways. He was inside, outside, everywhere and consistently good.
"He was very good tonight," said Kansas coach Bill Self. "He was by far the best player in the game."
I'm writing about a whistle instead of KU's 64-game home winning streak.
That stinks, too.
Because doing anything 64 straight times is an incredible feat.
The Jayhawks extended their dominance here despite committing 15 turnovers, despite getting out-rebounded by a 37-32 margin, despite missing nearly as many free throws (14) as they made (16), and despite the fact that their most talented player (freshman guard Josh Selby) was on the bench in street clothes serving the remainder of a nine-game suspension for accepting improper benefits before he enrolled at Kansas. That's what people in my business call determination, label tough. Meantime, Tyshawn Taylor (17 points and four assists) wasn't as good as Honeycutt, but he was just as crucial to the outcome. And Marcus Morris scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds in the second half to help KU overcome a four-point deficit with eight minutes left.
"We are a deep team," Taylor said. "We have guys that can do a lot of different things."
Absolutely, that's true.
And all I wanted -- all anybody wanted, really -- was to see them do it for another five minutes. But rather than let that happen, a referee decided to call a foul in the final second that sent Little to the line. He made the first free throw to break the tie, missed the second on purpose. Then the final buzzer sounded and everybody exited the court, and a terrific night was ruined by a less-than-terrific whistle.
At best, it was an unnecessary call.
At worst, it was dead wrong and shameful.