ACC tournament ends, but UNC-N.C. State officiating controversies linger

jgiglio@newsobserver.comMarch 11, 2012 

— The ACC declined to talk about the multiple controversies involving the referees and N.C. State at ACC tournament game on Sunday, but ESPN did, even the participants in the game-deciding sequence from Saturday's memorable game between the Wolfpack and North Carolina exchanged messages of mutual respect on Twitter.

ESPN showed the highlight of UNC's Kendall Marshall's game-winning shot over N.C. State's Alex Johnson with 10.2 seconds left in the 69-67 UNC win on a seemingly endless loop on Saturday night and into Sunday afternoon before the broadcast of the title game between the Tar Heels and Florida State at 1 p.m.

In a game that featured 42 fouls, including eight on charge or block calls, there was no call after Marshall and N.C. State guard Alex Johnson collided with about 12 seconds left while Marshall dribbled to the basket.

During ESPN's broadcast of the game, color analyst Len Elmore said after Marshall's shot: "Are you kidding me? With all of the contact and all of the fouls called? How can you ignore that play? It's gotta be a block or a charge but you can't ignore it."

On Sunday, ACC commissioner John Swofford, associate commissioner Karl Hicks and head of officials John Clougherty declined to comment about the officiating issues at the tournament, which started on Thursday when three officials each wore the initials "KH" on a piece of white tape on their sneakers.

The apparent tribute by officials Jamie Luckie, Mike Eades and Bernard Clinton was a reference to veteran ACC official Karl Hess, who declined an invitation to work the ACC tournament.

Hess ejected two former N.C. State players, Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta, from their seats behind the scorers' table at the RBC Center on Feb. 18. Subsequently, the conference reprimanded Hess for not following the proper protocol in ejecting the fans.

Hess, whom Swofford has referred to as one of the best officials in college basketball, was invited to work the ACC tournament by Clougherty but declined, because he did not want to be a distraction, Clougherty said, and instead Hess worked the Big East tournament in New York.

The officiating issues moved back into the spotlight in the second half of the N.C. State-UNC game on Saturday. Brian Dorsey, who worked the Feb. 18th game in Raleigh with Hess, called two fouls on N.C. State's C.J. Leslie in a 32-second span in Saturday's game. Leslie had 22 points in the game before fouling out with 8:03 left in the game.

After the game, Leslie declined to comment about the foul situation, so did N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried, who had several heated exchanges with Dorsey during the second half of Saturday's game.

"Can't talk about that, you get fined," Gottfried said on Saturday.

N.C. State Debbie Yow declined to comment on Sunday about the issues between the program and the officials.

Marshall and Johnson diplomatically took the debate from the Philips Arena floor to Twitter on Saturday night.

Marshall, whose Twitter handle is "KButter5" wrote to Johnson, whose handle is "SupermanJohnson": "@SupermanJohnson coulda went either way, but I'll take it! make noise in the tourney bro."

Johnson responded: "Hopefully we get selected tomorrow and we will meet again! Lol."

A review of the ESPN telecast shows that Dorsey called four of the five fouls on Leslie and was involved in four key calls in the game.

Dorsey called a charging foul on Leslie at 8:35 in the second half, which was Leslie's fourth foul, and a reach-in on Leslie on a Harrison Barnes shot attempt at 8:03.

With 58.6 seconds left, Dorsey whistled Scott Wood for a foul on Barnes, with UNC trailing 67-66. Ray Natili was the official closest to the play but Dorsey came across the court to make the call.

On UNC's final sequence, Dorsey was on the baseline on the same side of the floor as Marshall and Johnson but didn't make a call with 10.2 seconds left, despite the similarities between the Marshall-Johnson collision and the charge he called after the Leslie collision with UNC forward Justin Watts at 8:35.

ESPN's Elmore was critical of the officiating throughout the second half of the broadcast, pointing out the inconsistencies of calls on similar plays.

"It's unfortunate because the officials out here have great reputations, that's why they're doing this game but everybody has a bad day," Elmore said. "Unfortunately, somebody has to pay for it."

Elmore also got on the officials when North Carolina's Tyler Zeller, who led all scorers with 23 points, fouled out, missing the final frenetic 68 seconds of the game.

"We mentioned both benches might have a quibble with the way this last eight minutes have been officiated," Elmore said. "Wow."

ESPN had to blur out Gottfried's reaction, which included profanity, to the no-call by Dorsey before the Marshall basket.

"That's a charge!" Gottfried clearly screams to Dorsey.

ESPN's cameras didn't capture Dorsey's response but official Tim Nestor physically interceded and moved Dorsey to the other side of the court, away from Gottfried and the N.C. State bench.

A review of the game broadcast showed Dorsey made 16 foul calls in the game, same as Natili, with 10 against N.C. State and six against UNC. Natili made nine calls against UNC with seven against State and Nester had six calls against State and four against UNC.

Dorsey was involved in four block/charge calls, two in N.C. State's favor and two in UNC's.

Johnson was involved in three block/charge collisions. He picked up a charge on James Michael McAdoo and Watts in the first half. Dorsey called the charge on Watts with 2:06 left in the first half.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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