TULSA, Okla. — Cory Joseph usually looks for his teammates to make two or three cuts on an inbounds pass. With 14 seconds remaining and Texas up two points, Joseph decided he was only going to look for one cut by J’Covan Brown and one cut by Jordan Hamilton before calling time-out.
But when he turned to the official to call time-out, he heard a whistle.
“I called a time-out before he blew the whistle,” Joseph said. “So when he blew the whistle, I thought he was going to call a time-out for us. But he called five seconds.”
Following the questionable call, Arizona’s Derrick Williams made a miraculous shot and drew a foul to regain the lead and beat Texas 70-69 to advance to the Sweet 16 and eliminate Texas from the NCAA Tournament.
Hamilton tried taking a charge on the play but did not get the call.
“I didn’t even feel contact at all,” Hamilton said. “But the ref made up his mind and called a foul. There’s nothing we can do about it now.”
Texas had one last chance with nine seconds remaining as Brown, who scored Texas’ last 11 points — most of which were made at the free-throw line — went to the basket trying to get contact and this time could not get the call. Gary Johnson picked up the loose ball and was unable to get a shot off in the last second as Texas’ season came to an end.
A handful of calls that could have gone either way determined the outcome of Sunday’s loss.
Texas put itself in the situation as it played one of its worst first halves of the season, trailing by as much as 13. The Longhorns had to play from behind and slowly cut the Arizona lead before regaining it with two minutes left.
“I think the first half, we didn’t start the game off with energy,” Hamilton said.
Arizona shot 6-for-10 from behind the 3-point line in the first half to boost them to a double-figure lead.
Brown took over the second half, scoring 21 of his game-high 23 points. He got Arizona in foul trouble and made all 13 of his free-throw attempts.
Up 69-67 and Joseph under the basket prepared to throw the ball in, Brown made his first cut. Hamilton made his cut towards Joseph.
Referee Richard Cartmell counted off one by one and waved his arm to signal each second. But he blew the whistle before waving his arm to denote the fifth and final second.
“I had the call. I had five seconds before the kid turned and signaled a time-out,” Cartmell said. “I had to make a decision whether it was five seconds or a time-out, and I made the decision it was five seconds because I had counted five seconds before he called time-out.”
Texas coach Rick Barnes said it’s a tough game to call, but something that is determined on a count should be easy.
“I don’t think anyone should ever make a mistake on that, ever,” Barnes said prior to watching a replay. “I mean, ever. I hope he got it right.”
Barnes said that he thinks the NCAA should be able to fix tough calls such as the five-second violation.
“[In other sports,] there are certain things that can be corrected,” Barnes said. “In our game, there’s not. We’ve got to be willing to make the rules that are right because at the very end, if you truly want the players to determine it, the officials have to be willing; the NCAA has to be willing to say, ‘OK, we’re going to get this right.’”
After watching the replay, Barnes saw what all the commotion was about.
“I think if they’d looked at it, they would have changed the call,” Barnes said.
The replay can be watched over and over again, but nothing is going to change for the Longhorns who failed to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third straight year. This marks the end of the college careers of Johnson, Dogus Balbay, Jai Lucas and Matt Hill.
“We were in a great position to go to Anaheim,” Johnson said. “It sucks.”