Rob Oller commentary: You can’t say Ohio State won on missed call
Don’t blame Charles Barkley for running his mouth about Ohio State benefiting from a “turrible” call late in the Buckeyes’ NCAA Tournament win against Iowa State on Sunday.
It’s hard to make an intelligent observation with your nose always buried in your broadcast notes. Poor Charles never looks up long enough to take the long view, which is: Controversial calls are only part of the game, adding a maddening yet heartening element of human error. They also spark our sports memories, one swallowed whistle or late penalty flag at a time.
That doesn’t mean we should welcome officiating mistakes, or tolerate them without complaint. But there is a balance to these things. And Barkley hip-checked that balance into the courtside seats.
To reset: After Ohio State made the Sweet 16 by defeating Iowa State 78-75 in Dayton, Barkley brayed like the donkey’s derriere he can be, disgusted that referee Karl Hess called Cyclones guard Will Clyburn for a charge after running into Aaron Craft with 1:41 left and Iowa State leading 75-74. Barkley wanted a blocking foul on Craft.
I would have enjoyed talking to Barkley about it this week, but a Turner Sports executive said he was “traveling.” Just my luck, a missed call on which Sir Charles remained silent.
Slow-motion replay showed that Craft should have been called for a blocking foul because his heel, though raised, still crossed the line marking the area beneath the basket where secondary defenders are restricted from taking a charge.
It was a gaffe every Iowa State fan can criticize. But to claim, as Barkley did, that the mistake cost the Cyclones the game is to engage in probability and speculation.Clyburn made the shot and could have given the Cyclones a four-point lead with the bonus free throw, but he also could have missed the free throw and Ohio State could have made a tying three-pointer on its next possession. Then what? Maybe Iowa State scores. Maybe not. Maybe Craft still makes the winning basket a half-second before the buzzer. Maybe not.
If, if, if. Too many possibilities exist to say with certainty the charging call cost Iowa State the win. To be fair, Barkley was not the only member of the media to protest. Just the loudest.
But life goes on. Through the years, Ohio State has experienced the positive and negative of a half-dozen extremely controversial calls that determined wins and losses. Before the Craft-y Charge, there was the Oden Shove, when Buckeyes center Greg Oden fouled out of a 2007 NCAA second-round game against Xavier on a push that could have been ruled intentional, which would have given the Musketeers two free throws plus possession.
Instead, Justin Cage missed the second free throw, Ohio State grabbed the rebound and Ron Lewis hit a three-pointer to send the game to overtime, where the Buckeyes won 78-71 to advance to the Sweet 16.
Ohio State football has had its share of controversial calls, too, most famously Terry Porter’s late flag that gave the Buckeyes second life in the 2002 national championship game win against the University of Miami. On the flip side, there is the 16-13 loss at Michigan State in 1974 when officials ruled Ohio State fullback Harold “Champ” Henson down at the half-yard line with 29 seconds left. Spartans players were slow to get off the pile, officials did not react, and time ran out.
Balanced botch jobs. For every break there is a broken.
“Even if we didn’t get that late call, there were one or two blatantly obvious penalties they should have called (against Miami) that would have made it an entirely different ballgame,” Ohio State lineman Tim Anderson said of the ’02 title game.
Of course, an entirely different ballgame might have resulted in Miami winning. Who knows? That’s the point. And Barkley missed it.
Rob Oller is a sports reporter for The Dispatch.