A heartbreaking, in-and-out missed layup from UC Santa Barbara's Amadou Sow left the Gauchos one point short of an upset in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament on Saturday.
No. 12 seed Santa Barbara led No. 5 seed Creighton, 62-61, with less than 30 seconds remaining. Creighton's Christian Bishop, a 57% free throw shooter, hit two clutch foul shots to give the Bluejays a one-point lead.
At the other end, with less than 10 seconds remaining, Santa Barbara guard JaQuori McLaughlin split two defenders and fed Sow, who'd made two huge free throws on the previous possession.
Sow's leaning layup, however, rimmed out – just barely.
What went wrong on the missed layup?
Sow, a junior, and the team's best big man, almost seemed to expect more resistance than he met at the rim. Or, perhaps, he tried to draw and sell contact that never came.
He burrowed into a Creighton defender's chest. But that Creighton defender, Shereef Mitchell, stayed steady and calm, with his hands up, almost backing away from Sow to ensure he didn't commit a foul. Sow, as a result, put himself off balance, unnecessarily, and tumbled to the ground.
Contact, though, was minimal. Any complaints about a potential foul were in vain. John Adams, a former NCAA director of officiating, tweeted that he was fine with the no-call.
Creighton's unsung star on the final play
Mitchell, a sparsely used sophomore, also came down with the rebound. He was the unsung star of the final play. Santa Barbara fouled him, and he missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving the Big West Conference champs one last chance with one second remaining. But a desperate, mid-court heave sailed high over the backboard.
Creighton will advance to play the winner of Saturday night's game between No. 4 seed Virginia and No. 13 seed Ohio.
Santa Barbara – its players and coaches, their family members and fans – were left to rue the near-miss.
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