Syracuse can count itself lucky in more ways than one.
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The Orange narrowly avoided becoming the first-ever No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed on Thursday, hanging on for a 72-65 win over UNC-Asheville. And a questionable call at the end that went their way gave them a huge hand.
With Syracuse up 66-63 and only 34 seconds remaining, the Orange attemped an inbounds pass that was knocked out of bounds. Officials ruled that the ball was deflected out by UNC-Asheville’s Jaron Lane, though replays clearly showed the ball had gone off Syracuse guard Brandon Triche’s hands.
The Bulldogs should’ve been awarded the ball with just a three-point deficit. Instead, Syracuse successfully inbounded on the second try, got fouled, and made two free throws to help put the game away.
NCAA director of men’s basketball officiating John Adams said on TruTV after the game that the out-of-bounds call was incorrect.
"I’m not going to alibi for the gentlemen in the game," Adams said, according to USA Today. "They work their butts off. When you see this call, it’s either a foul or you give it to the other team that didn’t knock the ball out of bounds," Adams said.
"He didn’t get it right."
That wasn’t the only controversial call of the game.
Early in the second half, UNC-Asheville’s Jeremy Atkinson threw up a shot that appeared to hit the backboard before being blocked by a Syracuse defender. By rule, that would be a goaltend, but the officials called only a foul. Atkinson made one free throw, though it appeared as if he should’ve been credited with a basket as well.
A lane violation call with Syracuse up 62-58 and 1:20 remaining also gained the attention of critics, but the rule was properly enforced, Adams said. A UNC-Asheville player who started outside the three-point arc moved inside the arc before the ball was released — a violation, by rule. The Orange’s Scoop Jardine made the ensuing two free throws after the violation.