Boise State coach Leon Rice is still trying to wrap his head around this basketball brainteaser: Beating the buzzer with a winning basket doesn’t necessarily mean you win the game.
So were the Broncos after James Webb III banked in a 3-pointer with no time left in overtime to give them what they thought was an 87-84 win over Colorado State on Wednesday in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Only, the winning shot was overturned after officials went to the monitors and utilized a digital stopwatch embedded within the video overlay in the instant replay system. Through that, it was determined the clock didn’t start on time and thus Webb didn’t get the shot off in time. Boise State ended up losing 97-93 in double overtime.
Rice’s frustration isn’t so much with the official’s decision, which was upheld by the Mountain West Conference after the game and again Thursday when the league released video.
No, his concern revolves around the use of such technology.
“It opens a can of worms,” Rice said in a phone interview with the AP on Thursday. “Why are those milliseconds (at the end) more important than any other time throughout the game?
“Because all my life I’ve gone off the clock on the scoreboard – and he got it off before that.”
Here’s how the play in question unfolded: Boise State inbounded the ball to Webb with 0.8 seconds left, with Webb catching it and immediately shooting it toward the rim.
The basket was good.
Game over, right?
Rice saw red light up around the basket a split second after Webb’s shot was released, so he figured the officials would confirm the bucket once they went to the monitor to look at the play.
When they waved off the basket, Rice really saw red.
“I was all ready to run to the locker room and dump Gatorade on each other,” Rice said.
Even Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy felt that was a wrap.
At his postgame news conference Wednesday, Eustachy said he was just “waiting to hear the bad news. When they (the players) saw me turn around and clap, they were excited. They were really excited. It took a lot of courage to figure out the right call. Clearly, when he caught it to when he got it off, it took 1.3 seconds. … Bizarre game. Bizarre.”
The league said in its release Thursday that a “clear 1.2 to 1.3 seconds elapsed from the time the player touched the ball to the time the shot was released, and that the game clock did not start for several tenths of a second after the initial touch. Thus, the basket did not count – regardless of what was ultimately reflected on the game clock or what other unofficial video replays may appear to indicate.”
Not only that, but the league also commented on a play just before Webb’s shot, when Colorado State turned the ball over and extra time appeared to run off the clock. The league determined the clock stopped correctly at 0.8 seconds “once the official blew his whistle for the backcourt violation. His whistle stopped the clock automatically via the Precision Timing System at that instant.”
Oh, and for the record: It was a sophisticated timing device that was used, not a stopwatch.
“At first, I was like, `A stopwatch? What?“’ Rice said, when hearing the play was possibly overturned by using a stopwatch. “A terrible choice of words. You’re thinking, `They went to a stopwatch? What is this – the 1950s?’ That throws you for a loop.”
Now, the Broncos are putting this all behind them. They’re 16-9 and trying to stay within reach of front-running San Diego State in the conference chase.
“They battled, did everything, controlled everything they could control,” Rice said. “That’s what we focus on. We made 18 3-pointers. We played well together. Were we perfect? No. We weren’t perfect. We didn’t get the game done.
“But when it comes down to minuscule seconds, you can’t fault them. I saw a really good basketball team out there in orange.”
Rice is hoping this episode can bring his team even closer together.
“You can’t dwell on anything – win, lose, good calls, bad calls,” Rice said. “If you find yourself dwelling on stuff, you’re passed up and lost the next one already.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.