Oklahoma gets the bad loser award for its behavior after its NCAA Midwest Regional final loss to Memphis State. All three regional games were decided by two points, and the game that sent the Tigers to the Final Four against Villanova was bitterly fought. The Sooners were less than gracious afterward.
Wayman Tisdale called Memphis State "gutless," Coach Billy Tubbs was openly critical of both the Tigers and the officiating, and guard Tim McCalister reportedly flung ice water into the face of a referee as he left the court after the 63-61 loss Saturday at Reunion Arena.
The Sooners were mostly upset about a possible turnover committed by Memphis State guard Andre Turner with 12 seconds left. Turner appeared to palm the ball, but no whistle was blown. It would have given the Sooners possession in front of their bench with a chance to tie. Instead they started from under their own basket after Turner missed a foul shot, and Anthony Bowie's 18-foot jumper bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
McCalister, who had 14 points for the Sooners, received his fifth personal when he was forced to foul Turner after the Memphis State guard appeared to carry the ball. According to Reunion Arena security director Pinky Delay, as the referees left the court, McCalister threw a cup of water, splashing referee Hank Armstrong. Delay asked Armstrong if he wanted to press charges, but the referee declined, according to published reports.
Tournament director Rick Baker said he had no idea the event occurred until this morning, and would not comment on any potential disciplinary action.
McCalister was unavailable for comment.
The Sooners complained about Memphis State's stall tactics -- the Tigers held the ball for the last 1:30 of the first half and stalled again in the final four minutes of the game. And then they moaned about the alleged triple-teaming of Tisdale, the Sooners' leading scorer, who was held to 11 points and took just 10 shots.
Tubbs, angry at Memphis State's stalling, called for a 45-second shot clock after the game. The Sooners had averaged 90.8 points going in, the best in the nation, and their 61-point production was their worst since scoring just 49 against Indiana in the NCAA tournament in 1983.
"Maybe (we score that many points) in a half," he said. "That's why we need a 45-second clock. They ought to have a league for guys who are afraid to play, who don't want to take the ball up and down the court."
On Turner and the turnover, he said, "Everybody in the place knew it was a turnover, there's no question about that . . . You've got three guys out there who are going to determine your future and you pray they have the guts to make the call."
Asked if he would be in Lexington, Ky., for the Final Four, Tubbs replied, "I'm going fishing. There ain't nothing in Lexington I'm interested in."
The Sooners might have instead bemoaned some of their own dubious decisions. They were completely unable to get the ball to Tisdale, even with the Tigers' 6-foot-10 forward Keith Lee and 7-foot center William Bedford in foul trouble with four each for most of the second half.
Tisdale, who had averaged 25.6 points, went 16 minutes in the second half without even attempting a shot. "Every time I went to shoot the ball, a guard fouled me," Tisdale said.
Memphis Coach Dana Kirk denied that the Tigers had strong-armed Tisdale. "We don't triple-team anybody," he said. "We play help defense . . . It's called a prevent defense. We were like doctors practicing preventive medicine."
As for the stalling, he stood by his decision. "Believe it or not, I'm an advocate of the shot clock," he said. "But you have to do what's best for your team. We played the way we needed to play."
The Sooners also allowed Lee, who has a reputation for playing below his size in big games, 23 points and 11 rebounds. Lee took 22 shots, most of them inside, and said he was "surprised" at how easily he was able to score.
"I was surprised they were letting us drop the ball inside to me so much," he said.
Memphis State will carry the flag for the rest of the country into the NCAA Final Four against Villanova. The Tigers, winners of the Metro Conference, are ranked fifth nationally with a 31-3 record and the only team left in the tournament outside of the Big East Conference.
"We've got as good a chance of winning as anybody else, and I don't care who they are or what conference they come from," Kirk said.
This is the Tigers' first trip to the Final Four since 1972-73, when Gene Bartow was the coach, and a breakthrough after losses in the regionals the past three years.
They were stopped by Houston and Akeem Olajuwon the last two years, and by Villanova in 1981-82. Notably, they are the last team to have beaten Georgetown in the NCAA tournament, in 1982-83.
"Everybody says how we haven't done this or that," Kirk said. "But it's awfully hard. We've had the toughest draw in the country. Dean Smith is one of the most respected coaches in the country and he's won one championship in 27 years."
The Midwest Regional was the only one to have three teams ranked in the top 10. Louisiana Tech, loser to Oklahoma in the semifinals, was ranked No. 7, the Sooners were No. 4 and Memphis State No. 5.
"I think we had the toughest regional," Kirk said. "It came down to three of the top 10 schools. That's no guarantee we'll get to the final. But we've won a couple of those close games, and that's what makes you good."
Kirk had expected to meet North Carolina in Lexington, but Villanova surprised him.
"They're what I call battle tough," he said. "They make you hurry up, and then they make you wait . . . They have the patience of a big old buzzard, circling."