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McCollum's Column: The finish overshadowed the whistles - sorta

Posted: January 15, 2014 - 7:12pm

It was like hearing a long, drawn out speech, followed by spectacular fireworks.

The Arkansas-Kentucky basketball game Tuesday night was, for the most part, boring and plodding, dominated by officials who apparently wanted to demonstrate they knew the hand-check rule by the letter. You didn’t need a shot clock. There seemed to be a whistle about every 25 seconds.

So, we had a matchup of two teams going at each other aggressively and intensely, which could have been exciting from start to finish, turn into a free-throw contest.

For a few moments, the viewing of replays on monitors by officials probably made a glitch on the Nielsen ratings.

The teams combined to shoot 82 free throws in the overtime game and 60 fouls were called.

And this new rules emphasis is supposed to create more entertaining games?

This game, which began shortly after 8 p.m., stretched past most adult’s bedtimes. Unfortunately, those who retired early were awakened and stunned by the screams and shouts from adjacent rooms as folks “Qualled the Hogs” after Michael Qualls’ slamming putback capped one of the UA’s greatest and most memorable victories in years.

The ending was as magical and dynamic as the birth of a newborn. But to get there, the viewer had to endure what seemed like nine months of severe cramps.

The game lasted about four hours. By that time, some of my colleagues were advocating going back to the “no blood, no foul” days.

The new rule emphasis on hand-checking and contact that can easily turn into ticky stuff needs to be reviewed and tweaked before some fans abandon college basketball for a good Tolstoy novel.

The Razorbacks and the Wildcats went at each other intensely, vigorously and physically and in a game that seemed both impossible to call and impossible to adjust to how it was being called.

After being trapped in free-throw purgatory for most of the evening, the finish was one of the strangest, weirdest and most exciting I’m witnessed in awhile.

I can’t remember seeing a potential fast break nullified by a player rescuing the ball inadvertently hitting an official out of bounds.

Then, with the clock winding down and the score tied, Kai Madden missed a 3-point attempt, but Michael Qualls slipped inside the Kentucky defense for a resounding, game-winning slam.

Many coaches will tell you, the dagger in that type of situation doesn’t often come from the first shot but the followup when things are chaotic and players get distracted from basic blocking-out principles.

Then, the officials correctly put .2 seconds back on the clock for Kentucky to attempt a fullcourt desperation heave.

In one of the weirdest endings ever, the inbounds pass landed in the net on top of the giant scoreboard. I’m sure Kentucky coach John Calipari instructed that the pass be thrown high because there was barely time to attempt a tip on the other end.

So, the grand ending was finally delayed while officials sought a new ball.

Victories that occur in the manner as this one sometimes ignite a fan base and often serve as a catalyst for a team to come together and right itself.

We’ll see when the Hogs go on the road.

If I were a UA official, I’d keep that ball on top of the scoreboard as a monument to a classic ending.

Too bad the referees’ whistles hadn’t been tossed up there much earlier.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or david.mccollum@thecabin.net or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)

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