Lightning has now struck twice in ten years. Head coach Steve Lavin has now benefited from two blown goaltending calls to grab two wins over the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Let’s first go back to Sunday, March 17, 2002 and the second round of the 2002 NCAA Tournament in Pittsburgh. Cincinnati, led by first team All-American, Steve Logan, had earned its only No. 1 seed in school history. Standing in the way of a Sweet 16 berth for Bob Huggins was No. 8 UCLA, a team that had been ranked in the top ten earlier in the season.
Midway through the first half, Cincy’s Leonard Stokes took the ball to the basket and floated up a shot off the glass. Jason Maxiell, now in his eighth season with the Detroit Pistons (but then a springy, explosive freshman), followed the shot. Maxiell flew in, waited until the ball had cleared the cylinder and then quickly threw down an emphatic, two-handed tip dunk.
But wait. A whistle blew. The bucket was waved off. Huggins threw up his hands, dumbfounded. The camera caught Maxiell’s disgusted response, and anyone who can read lips knows he said, “Oh hell naw.”
Steve Lavin clapped his hands. He knew that Maxiell had earned two points, but instead, the Bearcats had those two points wiped off. And, as fate would have it, that game went into overtime. Even a fool would tell you, Huggins and the Bearcats could have used those two points.
UCLA went on to knock Cincinnati out of the NCAA Tournament in double overtime.
(I should also add that UCLA’s Billy Knight additionally banked in a three from the baseline in that game. It’s true.)
Fast forward to Saturday, January 5, 2013. Once again, midway through the first half, Steve Lavin was the beneficiary of rotten officiating involving goaltending.
Cincinnati redshirt, senior guard Cashmere Wright was ahead of the pack on a run out opportunity. Wright laid the ball up off the glass. After the ball hit the glass and was on its way into the basket, St. John’s forward Amir Garrett swatted the ball away with his left hand.
This time, there was no whistle. Replays showed, from all angles, one of the more obvious goaltends you will ever see. Again, Lavin stood on the sideline, clapping his hands, and once again, the scoreboard operator should have added two points to Cincinnati’s total but did not.
St. John’s, ironically (or if you root for Cincinnati, obviously) went on to win the game by one point.
The point of this article, although you may vehemently disagree, is not to cry over spilled milk. Honestly, Cincinnati did not play well enough Saturday to deserve a win over the Red Storm. The Bearcats did, in my opinion, play well enough in the UCLA game to deserve that win, however.
Whether Cincy deserved either of those wins is not the issue here. I’m writing this article to simply point out that sometimes, in sports, strange things happen that affect the outcomes of games. I respect you as a coach and an analyst, Coach Lavin, but you know you've gotten away with not one, but now, two.