If a ball goes through a hoop but gets stuck in the bottom of net, and everyone’s around to see it, is it really a made basket? Apparently, it isn’t.
Tennessee and Liberty faced off in Knoxville in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday afternoon—unsurprisingly, the Lady Volunteers cruised, winning 100-60. Tennessee jumped out to an early lead after outscoring the Flames 20-10 in the first quarter behind leading scorer Rennia Davis, but it wasn’t until a decisive third quarter that Tennessee pulled away, well after the most bizarre sequence of either NCAA tournament.
The play in question unfolded in the second quarter, when the Lady Vols clung to just a two-point lead. Freshman guard Anastasia Hayes brought the ball up the court, breaking through a failed Liberty trap in the high corner and drawing a defender from the lane to dish to a sealing Mercedes Russell, the Lady Volunteers’ center. Russell put the ball up and was fouled from behind by Tatyana Crowder; the ball went through the rim but did not fall through the bottom of the net and was poked out by a Liberty player.
The ball getting stuck was likely a result of the NCAA putting fresh nets on the tournament goals, and I’m guessing this one net didn’t quite get stretch-tested enough. This bewildered the officials, who conferred at the sideline scorer’s table for a few minutes to review what happened, even stepping over to ESPN’s analysts to let them know what they decided—the referees ruled Russell’s layup would not be counted and that she would go to the line for a pair of free throws (she made both of them). Both the ESPN announcers instantly disagreed with the call; Tennessee coach Holly Warlick was livid on the sideline.
According to the NCAA rulebook’s Rule 5, which covers “Scoring and Timing Regulations,” the following articles lay out what constitutes a made basket, and when a dead ball is to be called after a shot attempt:
Art. 2. A goal is made when:
a. A live ball that is not a throw-in enters the basket from above and remains in or passes through the basket; or
b. A free throw enters the basket from above and remains in or passes through the basket.
Art. 12. A try ends when the throw is successful, when it is certain the throw is unsuccessful, when the thrown ball touches the floor or when the ball becomes dead.
It’s pretty hard to see how this doesn’t meet the requirements of “remains in or passes through the basket”:
Tennessee didn’t end up needing the bucket, but rule-mangling is never a great precedent to be setting.