11:45 PM ET.
Mechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball and other college sports for espnW. Voipel began covering women’s basketball in 1984 and joined ESPN in 1996.
SAN ANTONIO – UConn is entering its 13th season. Women’s Final Four with a chance to win its 12th national championship after a controversial callback at the end of the Huskies’ 69-67 victory over Baylor on Monday night at the Alamodome.
Trailing 68-67 with five seconds left to play, Baylor guard DeJonai Carrington was subbed out by two Husky players, Alia Edwards and Olivia Nelson-Ododa, as she was about to take a shot. No fouls were committed, UConn got the ball back and Christina Williams made a foul out. She hit a free throw with less than a second left that set the final score. The Huskies, ranked No. 1 in the River Walk Region, survived a 28-point performance from junior Paige Buchers.
But the debate has only just begun.
NBA star LeBron James tweeted: Monk, man! !! That was a foul! !! Several WNBA players shared this sentiment, including Skylar Diggins-Smith, Kristi Toliver, Amanda Zahui B., Laishia Clarendon and Natasha Cloud. Even UConn coach Geno Auriemma’s daughter, Alyssa, tweeted that it should have been a foul.
What did you see? Then write down what Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said when asked about it. You don’t need my quote. I still have photos and videos from both sides. One kid punched her in the face and another in the elbow.
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey disagrees with the unsubtle decision at the end of the Baylor vs. Conn match.
It wasn’t the first controversial decision, or lack thereof, in women’s basketball this year. Three questionable last minute decisions worked against Troy in the first round loss against Texas A&M. The game could have been the first in NCAA Tournament history where the No. 15 seed beat the No. 2 seed.
And this isn’t the first time Mulkey has lost in the NCAA tournament. In the 2004 Sweet 16, Baylor got a foul on the ball, sending Tennessee to the foul line with less than a second left in the game. The Lady Vols hit both free throws and won 71-69.
When asked if anything could be done about the suspicious calls, Malky sighed.
That’s never gonna happen. It doesn’t matter. Well, we missed the call, she said. It doesn’t matter what you write. It doesn’t matter what I say. It doesn’t matter what we saw. It doesn’t matter what we think. Life goes on.
Geno Auriemma for his part said there are always questionable decisions in every match.
About James’ tweet, Auriemma said: I doubt he ever won a game and gave it back because he looked at it and said: That was a mistake.
It is what it is, Auriemma declared. I once asked an official how Paige ended up on the floor with a Baylor player on top of her on a loose ball? Says he: I don’t know. That was the answer.
So you want to revisit every decision made during the game? And then you put them all together and …. It’s not working. That’s the nature of sport.
It is also true that refereeing decisions made in the closing minutes of a match are coming under increasing scrutiny, as their impact can be enormous.
The bottom line is that the officials did what they were going to do, Auriemma said. If they had said it was a foul, I would have said it on the other end: You can’t make that decision!
I’m not going to apologize for it. If people want to talk about it before the end of the week, they can. This will not change the outcome. And I wouldn’t be embarrassed if you said it wasn’t fair.
The final buzzer made headlines, but the decisive moment came with 2:37 to go in the third quarter, when Baylor senior starter DeeDee Richards suffered an apparent hamstring injury and the Lady Bears led 55-45. Richards returned to the game briefly, but she did not move well and had to come off the bench for good and be replaced by freshman Sarah Andrews.
UConn took advantage of the absence of Richards, a nationally ranked defender last season, and began a 19-0 run.
Of course, you can never factor in injuries, said Carrington, who finished with 22 points. It was hard for us. Sarah was thrown into the fire. We were just trying to weather the storm. We never gave up. We never thought we were done.
And they weren’t. When Williams missed two free throws with 18 seconds left, Baylor got the ball back with one point left and had a chance to win. What happened next, rightly or wrongly, became the story of the evening.
Personally, I don’t think the decision is unnecessary, Carrington said. I’ve already seen the replay. One girl pushed me in the face, and another in the arm. Right now, there’s nothing you can do.