Matter of inches


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In a dead quiet SMU locker room, Yanick Moreira worked at removing the tape from his ankles. If only there was anything to cut away the pain inside.

“I’m sad,” be said softly. “Work hard all summer to get here, to end up like this. I don’t think we deserved to end up like this”

By now, you’ve probably seen the replay.

The 3-pointer by UCLA’s Bryce Alford with 13 seconds left and SMU ahead 59-57; a shot that seemed short, harmless, a last gasp. Until Moreira grabbed it on its way down for the rebound.

Box Score Highlights

Whistle. Goaltending. Eventually, a 60-59 UCLA victory. An NCAA tournament game was decided and a No. 6 seed was sent home by a shot that never went in.

Was it or wasn’t it goaltending? The SMU camp wanted a review, and no wonder. When officials were back after a very short look to confirm it a 3-pointer, the Mustangs were frustrated.

“It’s pretty heartbreaking,” coach Larry Brown said. “It’s not crying over spilt milk, but why would you have all these TV people and take five seconds and review goaltending?

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“I’m not saying it wasn’t goaltending. I have no clue. But it was a five-second judgment.”

Actually not even that long. Goaltending by rule is not a reviewable call, so when the officials went to the monitor, they were checking only to see if it was a 2- or 3-pointer. And that didn’t take long.

Afterward, the officials produced the goaltending rule in a pool report. It occurs when a ball is on its downward flight, and it is above the level of the ring and has a possibility of entering the basket.

There was no doubt about No. 1. There will always be doubt about No. 2, at least for SMU.

Moreira said he thought his hand hit the net before he grabbed for the ball and figures that’s why the call went against him, though he doesn’t think the ball had any chance of going in. “I thought the ball was short. I was trying to get the rebound to make sure nobody else was going to get it,” he said.

He said he would watch the reply first chance he gets. He wants to know. But whatever he thinks in the end, that 3-pointer will always count.

“I can’t blame it on the referee. I should have let the ball hit the rim first and got the rebound,” he said. “If they say it was goaltending, it was goaltending. You can’t argue with the referee.”

Earlier, he had one comment that was as succinct as it was agonizing.

“It’s all my fault.”

I would like to apologize for all the SMU fans as senior I shouldn’t make those type of mistake.. I’m really sorry

— Yanick Moreira (@Ymoreira35) March 19, 2015

It was a frantic enough game anyway. There was a 44-34 UCLA lead, then a 19-0 SMU run. Then one last flip-flop, when the Bruins scored eight points in the last 65 seconds. That by a No. 11 seed nationally criticized for even being invited to the NCAA tournament.

What a win.

“That’s the definition of March Madness for you right there,” said Bryce Alford, who had a sensational effort for his father with 27 points (or was it 24?), on 9-for-11 3-point shooting (or was it 8-for-11?).

What a loss.

“I can’t remember anything quite like this one,” said Brown, and he’s been coaching for eons.

But the participant who felt it greatest was the guy still wearing No. 2 in the SMU locker room, wondering why fate would ever make this the last college game for a senior.

“Until I get another chance to play I again, it’s going to be hard,” Moreira said. “It’ll stick in my head every time until I get a chance to put another jersey on and play. That’s when I’m going to let it go. Or maybe I never will let it go. This is my last time with an SMU jersey on.”