By: Charlie Hobbs
With the shot clock off and thirty seconds left to play, the Harvard Crimson found themselves earlier tonight with the ball and trailing the Princeton Tigers by a single point, 61-60. Perhaps haunted by their last-second loss to the Yale Bulldogs at the same Payne Whitney Gymnasium two weeks earlier, the Crimson appeared resolved to take a shot when the opportunity presented itself, regardless of how much time remained in the game. That chance eventually came for sophomore guard Brandyn Curry, who saw a narrow lane and drove to the basket to give Harvard a 62-61 lead with 11.1 seconds remaining.
After the ball dropped through the basket, it was gathered by Princeton senior Dan Mavraides, who set up behind the base to inbound the ball for (what was clearly about to become) the final possession of the game. Upon closer review, however, it appears that Mavraides may have actuallystepped on the baseline before inbounding the ball (see picture, below--click to enlarge). According to NCAA rules, "the thrower-in shall not leave the designated spot until he/she has released the ball and the throw-in ball crosses the plane of the sideline or end line." By stepping on the line, Mavraides was considered to have left the designated spot, and, had the referees made the call, it would have been Harvard ball with 11.1 seconds remaining.
What does seem fairly clear is that the referees missed the call. Of course, that call is an almost impossible one for a referee to make in the waning seconds of a game like the one we saw earlier today, and to do would have been somewhat akin to deciding the Wimbledon of the Ivy League on a foot fault. Nor would a Harvard ball have guaranteed a Crimson victory, although it would have been likely: Harvard is the second-best free throw shooting team in the country, and so would not easily have surrendered its lead after Princeton fouled.
All told, the referees probably arrived at the right outcome: to let the players settle the game on the court, rather than to decide it amongst themselves. But I doubt you'd hear any complaints in Cambridge tonight if they had.
Editors note: This post was originally published late Saturday night, but due to an error on our part in an attempt to edit the formatting, was accidentally deleted. It has now been reposted in its original form.