Mark Turgeon sprinted far onto the court and slapped his wrist like he was asking a stranger for the time. The Comcast Center crowd was howling for a foul call that never came and over on the opposing bench the visitors must have been sighing in relief. Two days earlier, the Syracuse men’s basketball team had been victimized at Duke by a late whistle. On Monday night, the Orange benefited from one in a similar situation.
Down one point with possession after forward C.J. Fair popped a midrange jumper off the front iron, Maryland guard Dez Wells surged ahead with the basketball, in the same bulldozing fashion that had made him one of the ACC’s best open-court finishers. Three Syracuse players surrounded him and later, a friend would tell Wells – the junior declined to name who – that he should have kept the ball, that he usually treated swarms of defenders like traffic cones so why deviate now?
Instead Wells gave it up. He swung a pass to classmate Nick Faust along the left wing and Faust drove towards the rim, into traffic. He rose up and absorbed the contact but didn’t receive the whistle. It could have put Maryland in position to assume the lead, for the first time since the game was two minutes old. Instead, Turgeon found himself sprinting forward, approaching the free throw line that Faust wouldn’t be shooting from, pleading his case on deaf ears.
“I thought Nick got fouled,” Turgeon said later. “I think the replay showed that.”
Here’s the replay. Judge for yourself.
On Saturday night, Boeheim was ejected when Fair was called for a charge deep into Syracuse’s bid to beat Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Fair’s layup, which went in, would have tied the game. Instead, the Blue Devils got four free throws from Boeheim’s double technical and wound up winning by six.
So no, Turgeon would receive zero sympathy from his counterpart.
“Well first of all let me just tell you this,” Boeheim said. “They shot 27 free throws. If anybody’s going to complain about the officiating, I’m going to complain. And I think I did enough of that Saturday. I don’t think I have to repeat that again.”
The discrepancy was telling and certainly atypical of the foul-happy team Maryland had become. The Terps attempted 27 free throws, their most since Jan. 25, and only forward Evan Smotrycz, whose foul-out mercifully ended a miserable night for the junior, committed more than two fouls. Their 13 total fouls were their fewest during ACC play.
Syracuse, on the other hand, was hampered by foul issues all game. Fair had three in the first half but kept out of trouble to finish with 17 points, including a gutsy three-pointer over Wells that put Syracuse up 54-47. Forward Rakeem Christmas had four too, Michael Gbinije fouled out and third option Jerami Grant experienced back soreness and played only 13 minutes.
What made Boeheim, who had uttered the same profane phrase – “That’s [bad]” – six times before he got ejected at Duke, even more irked over Turgeon’s comments was how Maryland had squandered every chance to overtake the game during the second half. Without Grant, Syracuse’s offense was limited to Fair and point guard Tyler Ennis, but the Terps were even more challenged.
Beyond Seth Allen, who scored a game-high 22 points, and Wells, who finished with 15, no Maryland player made more than one field goal. Those eight missed free throws will stand out, but Boeheim pointed towards the team’s 18 committed turnovers, many of which were unforced. In a way, that Maryland was even given several chances to win was a small miracle given its propensity for sloppiness through 35 minutes.
“If they didn’t turn it over 18 times, they wouldn’t have had to worry about that,” Boeheim said. “Don’t complain about that call. Are you kidding me?”
But in the moment, as Faust leapt toward the hoop, the officials did exactly what the crew at Duke didn’t – they swallowed the whistles and allowed the teams to work out the ending themselves. Allen had an open look at the buzzer, but his one-handed heave behind the arc bounced harmlessly away as the Orange celebrated ending their two-game losing streak.
“Yeah I thought he got fouled,” Allen said later, as another postgame interview session contained all the disappointment reflective of Maryland’s tough season. “I was right there. He kind of got hit in the face. I thought it was a clear call, but you can’t rely on the call. We played through it. That’s pretty much what we had to do. You’re not going to get every call. It’s hard, but you have to play through that. You have to expect bad calls.”
Said Fair, via the Daily Orange, “No I don’t think it was a foul. From my angle, that was a clear no-call.”
And then there was the matter of Wells passing in the first place.
“I’m not second-guessing anything,” he said. “I trust Nick. I think he made a good decision. Could’ve went either way … It’s a learning experience for me. Nick, he made a strong move like he should’ve made. We had a lot of chances win the game or tie the game. We didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had.”