|Mullings waits for the ball prior to the game-winning free throws on Thursday. Photo by Robin Zielinski
Not the best WAC officiating I have ever seen on Thursday in New Mexico State's 76-74 victory over Idaho at the Pan American Center.
Aggies coach Marvin Menzies was diplomatic and his comments will follow. But I thought the officiating was terrible down the stretch on Thursday.
There were three instances that stood out to me. 26 seconds left in a tied game and play is stopped for several minutes while officials ultimately determine Idaho had seven team fouls rather than six, putting Bandja Sy at the foul line.
Aggies point guard Terrel de Rouen whistled for an off the ball foul that put Connor Hill at the foul line with 125 left, Hill makes both free throws to pull within three. Aggies bring the ball up and Renaldo Dixon is called for a setting a screen away from the ball. Idaho gets the ball back to goes down and Hill hit's another 3 to tie the game with a minute left.
Ultimately the refs got it right when it mattered most, calling a Kyle Barone tip at the buzzer.
"(Daniel Mullings) is living in the moment. I told him at the last timeout, all they are going to remember is how you finish. And he stepped to the line like a champ and knocked down two critical free throws. ... (In the timeout before it was determined the Aggies were in the bonus with 26 seconds left) We drew up a ball screen for Terrel and Sim to roll to the basket and spot up Daniel on the weak side. We were going to run that with seven or eight seconds left. ... To make an honest assessment (of the officiating) I would have to look at the film. I did think there were a couple calls that could have gone either way and I don't know if we had a favorable whistle. I don't think they come in playing favorites. ... They have refined some things on replay. I thought they did good job in looking at both monitors and taking their time to make sure they made the right decision. ... I think they wanted to be sure after the debacle at Arizona. I was pretty confident while they were deliberating that we had won the game. ... Barone and Hill played great tonight and kept them in the game. .. We have a team that is winning close games right now and that's what you need to do if you want to get to that final game in a tournament and have a chance to dance.
"Terrel played great defense. he came up with the steal and I saw him so I decided to run the other lane. He saw me for the outlet which resulted in me going to the line. ... Was I thinking about it? (beating Idaho at the foul line in the first meeting) I'm not going to lie, like right away. As soon as I got fouled, I was kind of reminiscing. Over there I split them so I was just trying to make two of them this time because there was still time on the clock. ... (On what the Aggies talked about during the long timeout with 26 seconds left) Initially We thought they had six team fouls so we were just trying to get a play to get it inbounds and then run a little bit of time off the clock. We kept saying that we are going to take the last shot at the buzzer no matter what. ... I have to give him (Hill) credit man. That is one guy I have to tip my hat to. I guard a lot of guys who come off a lot of screens. He made a lot of tough shots. I was right there with him. He hit a lot of leaners, fadeaways, pump fakes, one dribbles. he had a good game. ... Some nights it's going to happen and me and Bandja are going to have a couple off games here and there but we are all ready to step up, especially Terrel and Renaldo. They are starting to get accustomed and know we need to rely on them here and there.
"(Barone 26 points) He has pretty good moves on the low post. I just try to get him off the block. ... In the first half, my teammates found me in the right spots and I just took advantage. It was a challenge. We have a lot of adversity going on. We have to use this as fuel and push us to get a win. Losing wasn't an option."