It was a call that could’ve cost Tennessee the game against Iowa.
Granted, the Vols had let a 25-point lead they gained late in the first half completely crumble late in the second half, so a loss would be on their heads rather than the officials. But there was an extremely controversial call late in regulation in the Vols’ match-up with the Hawkeyes on Sunday that turned a potential fastbreak opportunity for Tennessee into a game-tying moment for Iowa.
With 2:39 to go in the second half and Tennessee up 67-64 on the Hawkeyes, Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon received the ball near the top of the key and rose up to shoot a three-pointer. Tennessee’s Lamonte Turner rushed over and smacked the ball out of the air as it left Bohannon’s hand. Jordan Bowden corralled the ball and had Turner wide open streaking the other way for a fastbreak, but a late whistle stopped the play.
Turner was called for a foul by an official on the opposite end of the court despite the official with a clear view about 10 feet away proclaiming that Turner got a clean block.
You probably already saw the play in question, but if you need a reminder, here’s video of the incident from the CBS broadcast:
How is this a foul on Lamonte Turner lol these refs love the lower seeds this tourney pic.twitter.com/kCkvVVdRlr
— BettorIQ (@BettorIQ) March 24, 2019
Bohannon was sent to the free throw line to shoot three free throws, and he made every single one of them. That drew Iowa even at 67-all, giving them their first tie of the game since it was 0-0 at tip-off. Tennessee would go on to regain a four-point lead before Iowa closed the half on a 4-0 run and sent the game to overtime. There, the Vols willed their way to victory and recovered after their second half collapse, winning 83-77 and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.
That call didn’t end up costing the Vols anything, but by all accounts it was a blatantly missed call that could’ve had major implications. It ended up being a five-point swing for UT, and it helped Iowa erase that 25-point deficit.
On Monday, Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes was asked if officials gave him an explanation after they discussed the call after it was made. According to him, he didn’t receive any reasoning behind the decision.
“The only thing they told me was ‘don’t look at the monitor’ because I was sitting there looking at it,” Barnes said with a chuckle. “But we didn’t get one. I just saw it when I was watching our tape at the end of the game. One official (called a tipped ball on a block) and the other one came in (and called a foul).
“They gave us no explanation. They just said they called a foul.”
Even after the officials huddled up and discussed the call, they maintained that Turner fouled Bohannon and gave Iowa three free throws.
After the game on Sunday, Turner was adamant he didn’t commit a foul.
“All ball,” Turner said when asked if he fouled Bohannon. “I didn’t touch him. But we won the game, so it’s whatever. I’m just glad we got the win.”
Sunday’s game isn’t the only time this season that a Tennessee game has been marred by questionable officiating. The Vols’ overtime loss to LSU was certainly shrouded in controversy because of calls that were made — and not made — by officials (and the Anthony Jordan drama after the game concluded), and Tennessee’s win over Alabama earlier this season also drew headlines for a late travel call on the Tide on their final offensive possession. The Vols’ win at Ole Miss and their overtime win against Vanderbilt this year also had controversial calls late in the second half.
Ultimately, the Vols would’ve had nobody to blame but themselves if they had ended up losing to Iowa after holding a 25-point lead late in the first half. But that blown call against Turner certainly gave the Hawkeyes more of a chance at coming back, and it was a big turning point late in the game.
Luckily for Tennessee, it didn’t turn out to be a black eye in an embarrassing loss. Instead, it’s a talking point after a victory in the NCAA Tournament.