Tyler Too, Part Two: Unnecessary Foul Injures Zeller in UNC Blowout of Kentucky

Nathan BitnerSenior Analyst INovember 19, 2008

Ramon Harris must have been hanging around Duke's Gerald Henderson before the game against North Carolina on Nov. 18.  That is a little bit of an unfair comparison, considering that Henderson's foul last year on Hansbrough was clearly flagrant, whereas Harris' foul last night that sent Tyler Zeller to the hospital was more "unfortunate". 

With 1:26 remaining in a UNC blowout, Harris gave a "hard foul" (as called by the refs) on UNC starting center Tyler Zeller, who injured his wrist when he crashed to the floor.  Much of the injury can be attributed to Zeller's awkward fall, but the play should never have happened in the first place.

One could say, "Why was the starting center in the game with 1:26 left and a 20 point lead?"  Well, the answer is because he was starting for Tyler Hansbrough, already sitting out his second straight game with a stress reaction.

Zeller is a true freshman who needs as much experience as he can get before returning to his crucial reserve role when Hansbrough returns.  UNC was not running up the score or taking any other actions that warranted such a hard hit that late in the game.

The game had ceased being competitive about five minutes in, as the Tar Heels built a 15-2 lead.  About halfway through the first half, North Carolina led Kentucky 25-6.

Still, Harris decided he was going to give a hard foul with a minute left.  Maybe it felt good to let out some of that frustration after getting manhandled by a North Carolina squad that was without Hansbrough and defensive specialist Marcus Ginyard.  Maybe he was thinking of the embarrassment of a 111-103 loss to VMI just days earlier.

Perhaps he realized that Kentucky is likely to start the season in the same embarrassing manner that they did last year.  So he hacked and nailed Zeller, sending him hard to the floor. 

The foul was clean, in the sense of the rulebook. 

There was no technical foul.  There was no intentional foul called.  That type of play, however, is just unnecessary when a team is down by 20 points with a minute left.

Keep playing the game.  Keep playing hard.  That's fine.  You don't need to injure someone in transition after a turnover, under the basket.

When asked about the status of Zeller's wrist, Roy Williams said, "It doesn't look good."

The game is basketball, not tiddlywinks, so I have tempered my remarks and would call the incident "unfortunate" rather than "dirty."  But Kentucky, you are the winningest program in the history of college basketball, at least for a little while longer.  I hope for your team's sake that you start making better decisions on the basketball court.

Harris' foul was just another bad decision in two games that have been full of them.