One of the best-kept secrets around the Washington State campus Friday morning was the cause of a postgame run-in between Arizona coach Lute Olson and WSU assistant Byron Samuels following the 12th-ranked Wildcats’ 114-111 double-overtime win over the Cougars Thursday night at Friel Court.
The first part of the heated exchange was caught live by ESPN’s television camera as the two shook hands following the game. Samuels, according to several courtside observers, seemed to pull his hand away abruptly, prompting Olson to grab him by the arm and say something.
A brief, animated exchange of words followed, before Olson walked away to shake hands with first-year WSU coach Kevin Eastman.
“We were shaking hands and the guy was frustrated. He kind of slapped my hand, I turned and it was nothing,” Olson said of the incident.
An Arizona assistant coach told reporters Friday morning that Samuels had slapped at Olson’s hand and then lowered his shoulder and rammed into his arm.
At that point, Olson reportedly told Samuels to “have a little class.”
Samuels refused to give his side of the story, saying only that he was not at fault.
“All people need to do is watch the tape (of the incident),” he said. “Arizona can put whatever spin they want on it, but I’m not going to make any comment. That’s Arizona and I guess that’s the way they do things.”
Eastman said he did not see the incident, but he indicated after talking to Samuels that he was willing to stand up for his assistant in the face of whatever Olson might say happened.
“We’ve already had some calls from coaches around the country who saw it on TV,” Eastman said Friday, “and they’re saying, ‘Boy, did Lute yank your assistant around.”’
The incident was just one of several sub-plots to one of the most interesting nights of basketball the Palouse has witnessed in some time.
WSU, which fell to 8-7 in the Pac10 and 14-10 overall, seemed on the verge of a huge upset when Isaac Fontaine, who scored a career-high 38 points, made a pair of free throws to put the Cougars ahead 89-81 with 48 seconds remaining in regulation.
But the Wildcats used a clutch 3-pointer by Ray Owes - only this 13th of the season - and a critical turnover by WSU’s Shamon Antrum to stage a stirring comeback.
They even got the lead back for the first time since the opening minutes of the game on what might be an unprecedented technical foul call on WSU’s crowd.
The crowd had been warned earlier about throwing objects on the floor, but several of the 8,258 on hand decided to ignore the warning after three Arizona players trapped Antrum in the backcourt, avoided the reach-in foul and forced a hurried pass that was intercepted by Miles Simon.
Simon sprinted in for a layin that tied the game at 90 with 11 seconds left and WSU’s Mark Hendrickson, who scored a career-high 29 points, was whistled for a foul on the play.
That’s when a couple of paper cups and wadded programs drifted down from the stands, prompting referee Charlie Range to slap an immediate technical on the Cougars.
Damon Stoudamire, Arizona’s eventual hero, shot the free throws, but made only one. That gave WSU a chance to win the game when Fontaine was fouled while driving for the winning basket with 1.1 second.
Fontaine’s first throw rattled in and out and then hung tantalizingly on the front of the rim before dropping off. But he made the second to force overtime, only to have teammate Donminic Ellison brick two potential game-winning free throws with the scored tied at 98 with just a second left in the first extra period.
Stoudamire took it from there, scoring 11 points in the second extra period as the Wildcats secured their hold on second place in the Pac-10 standings by running their league record to 12-4 and their overall mark to 22-6.
As Eastman attempted to sort through the emotional wreckage on the morning after, he admitted that he had never seen a technical foul called on a crowd at such a critical juncture.
“I just wish (the officials) would have given me a chance to talk to the crowd,” he said.
But Range’s judgment was swift and final. And its impact was softened by WSU’s foul-line failures.
Pac-10 assistant commissioner Jim Muldoon, who was at the game, said there is no provision for officials having to warn an unruly crowd before assessing a technical foul.
But he said he could not recall a similar incident involving league officials.
Eastman was trying his best to put all of the craziness behind him Friday and prepare his team for today’s 1 p.m. showdown against 15th- ranked Arizona State (11-5 and 21-7).
Cougar seniors David Vik, Rob Corkrum, Joey Warmenhoven and Matt Bortles will make their final Friel Court appearance and Eastman hopes he can get the players recharged in time to make one final run at a postseason tournament berth.
“Right now were really down,” Eastman admitted. “The (Arizona) loss ripped our hearts out. It took our guts … and it shouldn’t have happened.
“I told our players afterward that we could feel sorry for ourselves, call off practice (Friday), get blown out by Arizona State and then see if we can regroup for California (next Thursday). Or, if your like me, you’d like to practice at midnight tonight and get prepared.
“We’ll just have to see how they respond.”
Adding to Eastman’s problems is the questionable status of backup freshman point guard Chris Griffin, who sprained his ankle late Thursday night’s game.
Eastman said the ankle was swollen Friday but that no decision on his availability would be made until this morning.
Arizona 114, WSU 111 (2OT) ARIZONA (22-6)
Owes 6-17 0-4 14, Simon 5-11 3-6 15, Blair 9-15 1-4 19, Geary 1-6 0-0 2, Stoudamire 15-29 6-9 40, Davis 4-7 3-4 11, McLean 1-4 0-0 2, Dickerson 5-9 1-3 11. Totals 46-98 14-30 114.
WASHINGTON STATE (14-10)
Hendrickson 9-17 7-8 29, Mack 2-4 3-6 7, Fontaine 13-21 10-15 38, Antrum 3-12 2-2 9, Ellison 8-14 0-2 19, Griffin 1-2 1-2 3, Daniel 0-0 0-0 0, Corkrum 2-3 0-0 4, Vik 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 39-77 23-35 111.
Halftime-Arizona 43, Washington St. 38. End of regulation- 91-91. First overtime-98-98. 3-Point goals-Arizona 8-24 (Stoudamire 4-10, Owes 2-3, Simon 2-6, McLean 0-1, Dickerson 0-1, Geary 0-3), Washington St. 10-24 (Hendrickson 4-7, Ellison 3-7, Fontaine 2-3, Antrum 1-7). Fouled out-Blair, Geary, Antrum. Rebounds-Arizona 59 (Blair 16), Washington St. 48 (Mack 10). Assists-Arizona 12 (Geary 4), Washington St. 19 (Ellison 12). Total fouls-Arizona 26, Washington St. 25. Technical- Washington State crowd. A-8,258.
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