Winning Another Game

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It turns out that Carolina and Duke play other sports. There’s baseball (the third game in the series is today). There’s women’s basketball (they meet for the ACC Championship). We play football every season for the rights to the victory bell. And then there’s whatever sport that was last night.

The Tar Heels played another gutty game and found a way to beat Duke last night in Cameron to claim the ACC regular season title. It took everyone stepping up and finding a way to get stops and put the ball in the basket. The 10-0 run to close the game was nothing short of remarkable fortitude after losing a lead the Heels had held almost the whole game. And it speaks well of what this team is capable of during the coming weeks.

But what the heck is up with the officiating? This game was called evenly, I thought, but they seemed to let everything within 8 feet of the basket go with no call. It’s one thing to “let them play.” It’s another thing to completely ignore established rules of the game that players expect to be called and around which players tailor their games.

Take Tyler Hansbrough, for example. Tyler is renowned for his ability to draw contact and still get the ball to the basket. His style is to draw fouls and go to the line, while trying for the “and one.” We have played thirty games this year in which contact near the basket was called a certain way. As a result, Tyler averages over ten free throw attempts a game. He did not attempt one against Duke. And it’s not that he was not getting the ball. He took 21 shots against Duke. But according to last night’s officials, he never got fouled in the act of shooting. As a result of his “not getting fouled,” Tyler (who averages 54% shooting) shot 38 percent on the game against Duke’s renowned inside presence. Deon Thompson (who averages 46% shooting) shot 28 percent.

Duke was not called for a foul in the first ten minutes of the second half.

You read that right. As Duke was closing from a nine point deficit to tie the game, attempting stifling defense in the process, they didn’t commit a single foul.

Like I said before, this game was called evenly, but the way it was called (or not) was a travesty. A team like Duke has a decided defensive disadvantage in the post against Hansbrough, Thompson and Stepheson, when they have to play by the rules. By not applying the rules, the officials take away Carolina’s post advantage and allow Duke to do things to defend the post that no other team this season has gotten away with. Conversely, Carolina does not gain an appreciable advantage by this type of officiating because Duke doesn’t have a traditional post offense. Duke is all about dribble penetration and three point shots.

I don’t know what kind of game the officials thought they were at, but it wasn’t basketball. I hope we don’t see that game anymore this season. Thankfully, if we do, we at least have figured out a little more about how to play it.

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