If you still are saddened that Carolina won’t be taking on UConn in the Sweet Sixteen Friday night at Madison Square Garden, here are 10 reasons to make it even worse.
It may have been a perfect storm of Iowa State making plays and the Tar Heels messing up in the last four minutes, but any one of these 10 reasons would have in all likelihood produced a different outcome.
1) With Carolina holding a 76-68 lead, Kennedy Meeks made a steal and threw ahead to Marcus Paige, who launched a three-point miss eight seconds into the shot clock. The dagger, surely Paige was thinking, since that’s what he had done all season in the second half. But pulling the ball out and running another 20 seconds off the shot clock might have denied the Cyclones enough time to close the deal.
2) Bad three-point defense left Iowa State’s Naz Long, a 41 percent shooter from the arc, open in the left corner. His three-ball cut the deficit to 5 points.
3) Trying to establish position at the left low block, James Michael McAdoo picked up an offensive foul, killing Carolina’s next possession.
4) After a TV timeout, when Ol’ Roy surely said something like, “get the blankety-blank out on the three-point shooters,” bad defense left ISU’s Monte Morris alone on the left wing, where he took a pass from DeAndre Kane and buried another trey to cut Carolina’s the lead to two points.
5) Over the next 28 seconds, the Tar Heels missed two close-in shots, got two offensive rebounds, and Meeks missed a bunny at the basket that would have opened the lead back up to 4 points.
6) After Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim hit a driving lay-up (again assisted by Kane) to tie the score, Carolina finally broke a 2:52 drought stuck on 76 points when Leslie McDonald made his fourth three-pointer of the game from the left corner. You can’t NOT score in almost three minutes of a down-to-the-wire game and expect to win.
7) Carolina gave up an offensive rebound and Iowa State’s Dustin Hogue made it a one-point game with a put-back. Get that rebound with about a minute left and the game is probably over.
8) McAdoo hit a short jumper to stretch the lead back to three on an assist from McDonald, who was late getting back and slipped trying to contest another three-pointer by Long. It went in, and the game was tied at 81.
9) Paige then made the turnover that will keep him angry and in the gym even more this off-season, leaving his feet with nowhere to pass the ball. Ejim picked up the turnover and pitched ahead to Kane, whose ensuing run-out gave the Cyclones their first lead since midway through the second half. That was in the middle of a 29-14 spurt by the Tar Heels that had turned their seven-point deficit into the eight-point lead
10) After McAdoo made two CLUTCH free throws to tie the score at 83, the Heels failed to “stop the ball” and with no shot blockers guarding the basket, Kane scored the last two of his 24 points to give Iowa State the game it should have lost about nine times in the last four minutes. Even the injured Brice Johnson on one ankle might have blocked or bothered Kane’s floater.
A few words about the so-called clock malfunction in the last 1.6 seconds. It wasn’t a clock malfunction; it was human error. The clock operator did not start the clock once Nate Britt caught the inbound pass. So as Britt sped up the floor, he saw something left on the clock as he called a timeout.
The officials explained to both coaches that because the clock started late, there was actually no time left when Carolina was wildly waving arms for a TO. But that’s on the clock operator, not the Tar Heels. They are denied a chance for one last desperation shot because the boob was late pressing the button?
I’m not sure of the rules in such a situation (and it appeared neither were they), but it doesn’t seem right that a player who saw there is time left should be told there was really no time left because the clock operator fell asleep.
In essence, Britt started dribbling the ball when the ball was still dead, according to the clock.
At the very least, when the officials determined what had happened, the Tar Heels should have been given the ball out of bounds again under their own basket with 1.6 seconds left. There have been 94-foot miracles before.
That’s what they did for Russia at the 1972 Olympics. Three times. And they actually scored the third time to steal the Gold Medal from the USA.