Friday, March 13, 2009 | 10:46 p.m.
There were no red challenge flags lying in front of either bench during the final seconds of San Diego State’s 64-62 win over top-seeded BYU in Friday’s Mountain West Conference semifinal game. Still, the scene provoked images of an NFL game.
With 10 seconds remaining in the game and the Aztecs ahead by three, BYU’s leading scorer of the night, Jimmer Fredette, was fouled near the top of the arc. Following the play, all three officials huddled around a television to decide whether Fredette had been behind the line.
“First thing I told my team when it happened was I’m going to try to talk them out of the [foul],” said San Diego State coach Steve Fisher. “But I wasn’t sure if that was going to work. The longer [the officials] took, I made sure I told them that I’ve watched the NFL -- unless it’s conclusive the call stands. Nobody had raised their hands for a three, so it can’t be a three.”
After a lengthy discussion, Fredette was awarded just two free throws. He sank both, but the Aztecs kept a one-point lead that they extended on the following possession that put the game away.
It was the second time this season the Cougars had a call not go their way after officials took the time to review it. Back in December, the Cougars missed a chance to knock off then-No. 17 Arizona State when officials overturned a last-second basket by Charles Abouo that would have won them the game.
“It was obvious when [the official] said that he was going to shoot two free throws what they had called so I really didn’t need an explanation,” said BYU coach Dave Rose. “But we’ve been in that situation before this year and both those plays have been kind of tough.”
Friday’s loss marks the third straight season that BYU has entered the MWC tournament as the No. 1 seed but failed to emerge as tournament champions.
However disappointing it may be to the Cougars to miss out on a conference tournament championship the past three years, that frustration has no doubt been lessened by the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament. This year is no different, as no one expects the loss will cost the Cougars their bid.
“There are a lot of teams going home at this point, not playing another game this season,” Fredette said. “We have the opportunity to play again so it’s something we can look forward to.”
San Diego State may not even need to win the conference championship to earn its first NCAA tournament bid since 2006.
Even so, the Aztecs would rather not leave it in the hands of the selection committee.
“This is a really good conference and I think it’s starting to get a little more respect,” Fisher said. “This is a conference that can compete anywhere, any place, anytime. There are five teams that can get into the tournament and get to the Sweet 16. We’ve got a game to play tomorrow though, and our goal is to not have to hope [for a bid] after tomorrow.”