PITTSBURGH — With just over eight minutes left in what would become a 65-56 Pitt loss to Syracuse on Saturday, Pitt guard Trey McGowens put up a 3-point attempt that splashed through the net.
Closing Syracuse defender Frank Howard got his legs tangled with McGowens’, and it appeared that the Pitt freshman would be able to attempt to convert a four-point play.
Instead, referee A.J. Desai called an offensive foul on McGowens and waived off the basket, much to the displeasure of the Petersen Events Center faithful.
Pitt head coach Jeff Capel said after the game that he did not get an explanation as to why McGowens was called for an offensive foul and why the basket was taken away.
“Didn’t get one. Don’t understand it. Didn’t understand it – still don’t,” he said. “Not sure I’ve seen that called in college, ever.”
Pittsburgh Sports Now received the following clarification on the application of the rule from ACC senior associate commissioner for basketball Paul Brazeau, when it came to the offensive foul on the follow through wiping out the basket.
“Correct call … a basket can’t be scored when an offensive player commits an illegal act”
Of course, that doesn’t take into account the call itself. What did McGowens do wrong on his 3-point attempt that drew the ire of Desai?
“He kicked out with his leg,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “You cant do that.”
It was actually the second time McGowens had done so in the game. The first time, early in the second half, McGowens kicked out his right leg and drew a foul call on Orange forward Oshae Brissett. McGowens made all three free-throws he was awarded.
After that call, Boeheim and Syracuse assistant Gerry McNamara had some words with the officials about McGowens’ kick out. There was another, similar play later in the second half when Jared Wilson-Frame made a 3-point basket from the corner in front of the Pitt bench, and no foul was called on either team.
When McGowens again kicked out and made contact with Howard, the call went against the Panthers. It’s easy to see on video how he kicks out his left leg at the last moment to initiate the contact.
Howard was surprised that the call went in his favor.
“I mean, at first I thought they called a foul and I knew he kicked his leg out,” Howard said. “He and Wilson-Frame have that down with their leg kick, so I was just hoping they didn’t call that a foul. The ref got it, and I think it was the right call.”
Offensive-initiated contact is one of the focus subjects for NCAA officials this season, and the wording from the 2019 NCAA rulebook fairly obviously shows the progression displayed at the Pete on Saturday.
“Officials should not reward offensive players when they create contact with a defensive player who is legally moving to maintain a guarding position This action may take place anywhere on the court but most often occurs on drives to the basket. When it does, officials should no-call the play or even assess a player-control foul if the contact warrants.”
While Capel may be correct that such a call is not often made in college basketball (a straw poll of press row on Saturday night could not recall such an instance), it does appear that the referees correctly applied the rule and current point of emphasis.
It’s just one more thing Pitt’s freshmen are going to have to adjust to.