This was supposed to be a high-quality show-down betweent the top 2 preseason teams in the Final Four. Instead, the three refs decided it was THEIR game. Here's a good article on it:
Officials take away game everyone came to see
April 4, 2004
By Gregg Doyel
SportsLine.com Senior Writer
Tell Gregg your opinion!
SAN ANTONIO -- The words are struggling to come, they really are, paeans to Chris Duhon's penetration, Shelden Williams' trepidation and ultimately Connecticut's jubilation.
But none of them, none of that, was the story Saturday night.
The story was David Hall. And Olandis Poole. And Ted Hillary.
UConn's Emeka Okafor dislikes the call and goes to the bench early with foul trouble.(AP)
Know their names, because they officiated the Final Four game everyone wanted to see, Connecticut against Duke, and turned it into an officiating clinic. Title of today's lesson:
We're the story.
You want it? Fine. You got it.
David Hall. Olandis Poole. Ted Hillary. You were the story tonight. You were the stars. It's too bad, because there were enough stars for two games. As it was, there were barely enough players for this one.
In the broadest sense, Duke and Connecticut survived the whistles of David Hall, Olandis Poole and Ted Hillary. Connecticut won 79-78 in a game neither had to finish with four players, as Clemson so famously had to do once under Rick Barnes against North Carolina. That game -- almost a decade ago -- had the whiff of home cooking, as did so many at the Dean Smith Center when Dean Smith was coaching.
The game Saturday night bore the stench of too many chefs in the kitchen.
David Hall, Olandis Poole and Ted Hillary were so determined to impose their will on this game that David Hall, Olandis Poole and Ted Hillary took the game away from the guys everyone wanted to see: Emeka Okafor, Shelden Williams, Ben Gordon, Shavlik Randolph, Josh Boone, etc.
Okafor, the last great college big man, played less than four minutes of the first half after drawing two fouls nobody saw but David Hall, Olandis Poole and Ted Hillary. One of his substitutes, Hilton Armstrong, played five minutes before getting two fouls.
Duke should have been happy, yes? No, no, no. Williams and Randolph played a combined 18 minutes, drawing six fouls between them in the first half. Williams fouled out with five minutes left. Randolph fouled out with three minutes left.
That's why, in the game's final minute, we were treated to the sight of Okafor going one-on-one with ... Nick Horvath? We were, that is, until Horvath fouled out in the final seconds.
Understand something, please. This column wrote itself, OK? And it started writing itself with Duke apparently on its way to victory thanks to a 75-67 lead with less than four minutes to go. Duke, Connecticut, from a topical standpoint it didn't matter who was going to win this game. The winner of the game -- Connecticut, right? -- can be the story tomorrow.
The story tonight? David Hall, Olandis Poole, Ted Hillary.
If they had less class, or more brazenness in the face of NCAA sanctions against such regrettable honesty, both coaches would have told you as much afterward. The closest either came was Duke's Mike Krzyzewski cryptic and unsolicited observation that, "It was a disruptive game -- lot of substitutions, lot of fouls."
As it was, about half the crowd spoke for everyone midway through the second half when they chanted, "Let them play, let them play."
Connecticut's Jim Calhoun spent most of the game somewhere between fury and disbelief. Rent The Natural and watch the scene where the crusty manager of a bumbling team repeatedly vents to a coach, "I should have been a farmer." That was Calhoun, over and over, to assistant coach George Blaney as one mystifying call after another turned the Connecticut bench into the green room of the 2004 NBA Draft: Okafor and Gordon, sitting on chairs, watching helplessly.
Krzyzewski was equal parts pleased and p-----, if you know what he's saying. And it's not tough to know what he's saying. As Okafor went to the foul line with 3.2 seconds left to shoot the free throw that would make it 79-75 and clinch this victory, Krzyzewski yelled at Hillary, three times, "You killed us!"
Throughout the game, both coaches made it clear they felt they were being gypped -- and both coaches were right. David Hall, Olandis Poole and Ted Hillary set the tone early with those non-fouls called on Okafor, and they spent the rest of the game playing catch-up.
After victimizing Okafor and Connecticut early, the officials victimized Duke for the rest of the first half and the first part of the second half. Maybe they went too far, because early in the second half there were six fouls against Duke, one against Connecticut, and Williams and Randolph were out with four fouls. So the referees victimized Connecticut for the next five minutes until the fouls were even, six to six. Go figure.
By then none of the players, on either side, knew what to expect next. One time down the floor a touch on the waist was called a foul, and the next time a rake across the eyes wasn't.
"It was tough," Gordon said -- and his team won.
During the last media timeout, with about four minutes to play, somebody must have informed David Hall, Olandis Poole and Ted Hillary they were ruining what was supposed to be a great game -- because they swallowed their whistles and stopped calling everything. Or anything.
Players crashed into one another, hands ripped at arms, but nothing happened. David Hall, Olandis Poole and Ted Hillary had spent 36 minutes tilting the balance this way, then that. Now that the ledger was even, they weren't about to risk making a call that might tip the scales.
No blood, no foul? Not quite. Boone had to wipe blood from his nose and lip several times in the final minutes.
From a strategic standpoint, Krzyzewski and Calhoun spent as much time reacting to David Hall, Olandis Poole and Ted Hillary as they spent reacting to the other team. Calhoun's decision to bench Okafor with 16:05 left in the first half, and to leave him there until the second half even as Duke was turning a 15-4 deficit into a 36-26 lead, paid off because Okafor was around to dominate the second half.
Krzyzewski's decision to let Williams and Randolph play with two fouls, even with Okafor out, helped Duke build a double-figure lead but backfired late when both players fouled out. For Williams it was a merciful ending to a night in which he was thoroughly spooked by Connecticut's bevy of shot-blocking big men, who held him to a combined 1-for-9 shooting.
"The second half was difficult," Krzyzewski said. "Our (three) centers played 40 minutes and had 15 fouls." In that sense Calhoun got the better of Krzyzewski, because both teams had foul issues but only Connecticut advanced to Monday night's championship game against Georgia Tech.
On Monday night the 2004 NCAA champion will be crowned, as will the MVP of the Final Four.
As of this writing, if we had a vote, we'd split it three ways:
David Hall. Olandis Poole. Ted Hillary.