By RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Sports Writer
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The official was right there standing over the play.
North Carolina’s Kennedy Meeks and Gonzaga’s Silas Melson were on the floor trying to corral a rebound with 53 seconds left in the NCAA championship game with the Tar Heels up by one Monday night.
Referee Mike Eades called a held ball and North Carolina retained possession, and then used that possession to score the biggest basket of the game. The problem was that photos of the play show Meeks’ hand on the end line while he had his other arm around the ball. That should have made it Gonzaga ball, down 1 with plenty of time left.
“I had no idea,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said after the game. “I just, from my angle it didn’t look like it was a situation where there was an out-of-bounds situation or I else I would have called for a review.
“So nobody made me aware of it or I certainly would have within the last minute there or 2 minutes,” he said. “So that’s tough. It’s tough to hear. But, you know, that’s just the way it goes.”
The Tar Heels turned the extra possession into an inside hoop from Isaiah Hicks that made it 68-65 with 26 seconds left. The Zags turned it over on their next possession, Justin Jackson dunked with 12 seconds left to make it 70-65 and that was pretty much it.
The referees were not available for comment at the time The Associated Press learned about the issue through screen shots of the play making the rounds on social networks. Through NCAA spokesman David Worlock, national coordinator of basketball officials JD Collins said the play was not reviewable.
In a game with 44 fouls, there was plenty of reason to complain about officiating, though both teams steered away from really laying into the referees.
“It’s a very difficult game to call. I’m sitting over there, I’m not thinking the officials are doing a terrible job,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “I’m thinking our offense stinks.”
“I told them don’t worry about what the referee is doing, he missed a call (earlier), but, my God, we missed four free throws in a row, missed layups. So we were at fault just as much as anybody else,” Williams said.
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