- The Washington Times - Monday, March 18, 2002

What's March Madness without a little late-game controversy?
A wild sequence of events in the final 11 seconds that featured a late whistle on a touch foul and a correct no-call on a dive ended N.C. State's surprising season.
With N.C. State trailing by a point, Wolfpack freshman guard Julius Hodge was called for fouling Connecticut star Caron Butler on a desperation 3-pointer from the top of the key with a half-second to spare on the shot clock and 11.4 seconds on the game clock.
Butler calmly sank all three free throws as the Huskies advanced to next weekend's Sweet 16 in Syracuse, N.Y., with a 77-74 win over the Wolfpack yesterday in the second round of the East Region before a sold-out MCI Center.
The second-seeded Huskies (26-6) will face 11th-seeded Southern Illinois (28-7) on Friday.
Replays showed that referee Scott Thornley, who works the Pacific 10 Conference and has officiated two of the last three national championship games, made the right call because Hodge made slight contact with Butler's right arm in the act of shooting. Butler's free throws gave UConn a 75-71 lead.
Hodge said he never touched Butler, who scored a career-high 34 points.
"I was trying my best to contain [Butler], and the official made the call," Hodge said. "I didn't think I fouled him. You don't call a foul when shooting with 11 seconds left in the game."
Thornley's whistle on Hodge appeared to come late. N.C. State guard Anthony Grundy grabbed Butler's miss, and play was stopped. From that point, confusion reigned. Some N.C. State players thought Butler didn't get his shot off in time because the shot clock sounded. Others thought there was an off-ball call in the lane.
"I was having a tremendous night, and my ball club and my coach believed in me to get the ball and do whatever I could," said Butler, who was 12-for-12 from the free throw line. "I wanted the ball in my hands, and I went for what I could and I got fouled."
The Wolfpack were looking for a similar call a few moments later. Down four, N.C. State forward Ilian Evtimov nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner to cut N.C. State's deficit to 75-74 with 4.3 seconds left. After Evtimov released the ball, he ended up on his back in front of the Wolfpack bench.
The Wolfpack screamed for a foul and a chance to tie the game at the free throw line but got no call. Replays showed Evtimov went down without hard contact.
"As for the confusion at the end, when Ilian hit the shot from the corner, we just asked for the same call," N.C. State coach Herb Sendek said. "He hit the deck. Obviously, that call wasn't made."
Said Evtimov: "Usually when you take a jump shot, you come down on your feet."
The 6-foot-6 Hodge had a chance to redeem himself and be the game's hero. Two more Butler free throws pushed UConn's lead to 77-74 with 3.6 seconds left. With a chance to send the game into overtime, Hodge received the inbounds pass, raced upcourt and launched a desperation 40-foot heave at the buzzer.
The Huskies let Hodge have a good look, but his shot hit the front of the rim and bounced off the backboard.
"I thought the shot was going down," Hodge said. "I got a pretty good look. I tried my best to make the shot."
UConn tried its best to throw away the game. The Huskies won despite 18 turnovers. It wasn't as if the Wolfpack's pressure led to steals. N.C. State finished with just nine steals.
Butler, UConn's leading scorer, and Huskies junior guard Tony Robertson were outstanding. Butler went 10-for-13 from the floor, including 2-for-3 from behind the 3-point arc, and added nine rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals.
Robertson scored 18 points 12 in the first half on 8-for-11 shooting.


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