Bill McCabe worked as an official for the St. Petersburg Bowl game Saturday, came off the field and saw the controversial ending to the BYU-Arizona State basketball game on "SportsCenter."
McCabe, who doubles as the Pac-10 coordinator of officials and had assigned the officials for the event in Glendale, Ariz., knew he would speak with official Kevin Brill, one of the officials who reversed Charles Abouo's flip basket as time expired. The initial call on the court was that the shot was good, seemingly giving the Cougars a 77-76 win. But after a thorough review, the basket was called no good, and Arizona State won 76-75.
"Kevin Brill said it was the toughest call he has had to make in his college career," McCabe said. "But Brill got it right. When the red light goes on, the ball is still in [Abouo's] hands."
McCabe said the red light is key if it can be in the picture with the shot. "The red light is on and the ball is in his hands," McCabe said.
"They slowed it down, frame-by-frame, and the ball was still in his hands," McCabe said.
BYU coach Dave Rose didn't see it that way.
"That's a pretty big play for us," said Rose, whose Cougars lost their first game of the season but have another Top 25 game on Jan. 3 against currently undefeated Wake Forest -- this time in Provo, Utah, where the Cougars have a 53-game home-court winning streak.
Rose said the frustration settled in when the Cougars players and the Arizona State staff and players were standing around, waiting and watching to see what call would be made.
Rose said, "The play on the floor stands unless there is conclusive evidence. I'm not sure what they're watching."
Rose said he couldn't see the play as being conclusive. McCabe said Rose was confusing football and basketball: In hoops, the play doesn't have to be conclusive to overturn; rather, the ball can't be in the player's hands if the red light is on and the clock is at zero. The horn isn't used as a first indicator because the timing of the horn can be off and because hearing it can be an issue in a loud arena.
Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said it was "obviously a close call, a difficult call, but the ball was still in his hands when it was being reviewed. It was definitely a bang-bang play."
Sendek said it was difficult to stand idle waiting for a decision and that the swings of emotion were tremendous.
"It's hard to swallow. I don't see what everyone else sees [on the replay]," Rose said. "We played good and had plenty of chances to win."
• Officials Brill and Bobby McRoy are no strangers to controversy. They worked the Stanford-UCLA game last year that decided the Pac-10 title. The end of that game drew ire from Stanford after Lawrence Hill was called for a blocking foul late in the game on Darren Collison. Stanford felt then that it should have been a no-call. Collison made the two free throws with 2.5 seconds left to force overtime. UCLA then won in overtime.
• Rose said Wake Forest will be only the second ACC school to play at the Marriott Center in Provo. The other was NC State, in a home-and-home series. Why did Herb Sendek, then the coach of the Wolfpack, go to Provo? "We wanted as good a strength of schedule as we could get," Sendek said.
• Princeton announced that it would name the floor at Jadwin Gymnasium after legendary coach Pete Carril on Jan. 21 against Dartmouth. It's hard to find another example of a coach getting a court named after him that would be more deserving than this one, save John Wooden at UCLA. Princeton is synonymous with Carril.
• Utah State beat Utah 66-64 in Logan on Monday night on a buzzer-beater that had a bit of drama. Tai Wesley beat the horn on an offensive putback with one-tenth of a second remaining. But the clock didn't start during the play. That, according to the Deseret News, led to a sideline "rage" from Utah coach Jim Boylen. There is a good pic from the game on www.deseretnews.com with Boylen and Utah State coach Stew Morrill exchanging pleasantries. Utah State (9-1) is now looking formidable and the team to beat in the WAC, while the pesky Utes dropped to 6-5 and go to UC Irvine on Saturday and host Gonzaga on New Year's Eve.
• Let a few of these scores sink in from Monday: Texas A&M Corpus-Christi 80, Georgia 79 in overtime (that's after a 3-pointer in the final possession gave the Bulldogs a win over Wofford); James Madison 70, Seton Hall 64 (second straight loss for the Pirates to a lower-level team after falling to IUPUI -- two losses that essentially negate those Puerto Rico wins over USC and Virginia Tech); Oral Roberts 86, South Florida 63 in Puerto Rico (ORU came into this game 2-10, and this loss comes on the heels of the Bulls' falling to Wright State in this same event the previous day).
• Baylor's Curtis Jerrells had a triple-double -- 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists -- in a 74-59 win over Hartford.
• In most normal years, beating Providence and Indiana would be quite a coup for a program like Northeastern, especially if both were true road games. PC still may get its act together in the Big East and make some noise, but Indiana is looking at a last-place finish in the Big Ten. Still, for Bill Coen, knocking off these name programs is significant. Northeastern is 6-4 and has won three straight games away from home, including a road win against the same James Madison team that just beat Seton Hall at home Tuesday night. The Huskies are still a real threat to challenge George Mason, VCU, Hofstra and Old Dominion for the CAA title.
• Kentucky's Jodie Meeks is on quite a tear. He lit up Appalachian State for 46 points at Freedom Hall in Louisville and then scored 32 in Kentucky's rout of Tennessee State. Patrick Patterson scored 33 to give the Wildcats quite a one-two punch.
• East Carolina was off to an 8-1 start and looked like it could repeat an upset win over NC State from a year ago. That didn't happen, as the Pirates lost by 11 in Raleigh. Then the Pirates hosted Wake Forest and got drilled 95-54, proving there's still quite a gap between the ACC and C-USA, save a few programs.
• Rutgers, which has already lost to Lehigh and Binghamton at home, is now facing one of the toughest stretches of any team in the country. Rutgers will play at No. 1 North Carolina on Dec. 28, followed by hosting No. 3 Pitt on Dec. 31 and then going to No. 2 Connecticut on Jan. 3.
• Ohio State's hyped freshman B.J. Mullens came out of his shell against UNC Asheville, scoring 19 points in the win for the undefeated Buckeyes.
• Can't stress enough how big Dominic James' 3-pointer to beat NC State was for Marquette. The Golden Eagles needed a significant, true road win prior to the Big East.
• Michigan and Missouri didn't make it into the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, but each did check into the AP poll, at Nos. 24 and 25, respectively. While polls lack importance for the postseason, cracking any poll is monumental for both of these rebuilding programs. Minnesota did crack both polls at No. 23. But the Gophers are four spots behind Louisville, which they just beat in Glendale.