West Virginia narrowly missed scoring its biggest victory of the season at the Carrier Dome this afternoon. Sadly, the Mountaineers were beaten not only by the No. 4 Syracuse Orange but by the referees as well.
With 20 seconds to play, the Mountaineers had the ball and trailed by just a single basket, 63-61. After a Truck Bryant three-point try turned into an air ball, West Virginia forward Deniz Kilicli grabbed the rebound and went for the game-tying putback.
Kilicli’s try appeared to hit the backboard before being turned aside by Syracuse sophomore Baye Moussa Keita. Despite the seemingly clear goal-tend on Keita’s part, no violation was called and the Orange managed to hang on for the 63-61 victory.
Obviously, West Virginia could have made the botched call a non-issue by scoring on the ensuing possession, as the ball ultimately went out of bounds to the Mountaineers on the play. That said, it shouldn’t be WVU’s job to make up for the officials’ mistakes, and if the right call had been made, West Virginia would have had an excellent chance to score a huge upset.
This Mountaineers team needs all the wins it can get as it battles for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, and today should have been a quality win that turned into an ill-deserved loss. It’s hard to imagine the officials in today’s game facing any sort of sanction from the Big East—far worse blown calls than this one have gone unpunished in college hoops—but it’s terribly unfair for Bob Huggins' team to be the only ones penalized for a mistake that was entirely the referees' fault.