Baylor ended up losing to Oklahoma State by 3, so technically the two free throws Lindy Waters III made after Jared Butler fouled out with 2:16 left didn’t make a difference. We would have still lost by one. But you and I both know that foul call was a whole lot more than just 2 points.
Jared Butler was cold for the first 35 minutes of the game, scoring just 2 points until 5:13 left in the game. And at that point, Baylor was down by 6 and trending ever downwards.
Earlier in the half, Baylor held a 7 point lead, and slowly but surely Oklahoma State had clawed back and completely taken over the momentum. The building was dead. The team was dead. This game wasn’t over, but the trend was obvious.
And then Jared Butler happened. Got fouled on a 3, and sank all 3 free throws. Next possession, he nailed a 3. Grabbed a defensive rebound, went down and got fouled again. It was a Butler takeover, and everybody was completely OK with just getting out of the way. Butler made a free throw, then missed one, which isn’t ideal but I will excuse it considering Freddie went 2-6 and Vital 3-5 from the line.
And then it happened. I’m not one to blame games on refs, and I think we can all agree that this wouldn’t have mattered had Baylor been playing anywhere near their potential, but here we go…
Lindy Waters, by far the best player on Oklahoma State, takes the ball from a few feet beyond the 3-point line on the left side, guarded closely by Jared Butler. He drives with his right to the right side of the key, still guarded closely by Jared Butler who, keep in mind, is in entirely legal guarding position with his hands up in the air, not touching Waters. Lindy Waters then proceeded to wrap his arm around Butler’s right arm and turn Butler around, all while cradling the ball and taking 10 steps. So in my mind, there are 2 reasonable calls you could make here, a foul on Lindy (for wrapping his arm around Butler and turning him in a circle, in case you were wondering), or the easier call to make would just be a traveling call.
To be precise, this falls under NCAA Men’s Rule 4-15-2c-7 which reads “Illegal contact caused by a player hooking an opponent over or under the arm in an attempt to deceive the official into believing the contact was caused by the opponent.” This is to be considered a Flagrant 1 personal foul. I’m not a ref, so I’m not an expert on this, but that sounds an awful lot like what happened.
But it’s more than just bad officiating. It’s game changing. The officials are now affecting the outcome of the game in a serious way. Because with that, Jared Butler got his 5th and final foul, which puts the only part of Baylor Basketball that seemed to be working at the time on the bench.
And it’s not just the call, and it’s not just the points. As I said earlier, the 2 points technically didn’t have a statistical effect on who won the game. But it was more than just 2 points. It’s a complete momentum killer. Like the Acy “charge”, it’s more than just a call.
What can we take out of this game? We learned that when the Bears come out the tunnel in a funk and play their worst game of 2019, and the refs make horrible, momentum-shifting calls, we still only lose by 3. That’s not amazing, but it’s something.
This team is good. We saw them come back and beat Texas, we saw them beat #8 Tech… We’ve seen them look really good on the floor. And now, we have close to the bottom of what they can do.
Maybe if that call went the other way the game would have turned out differently. But maybe not. We’ll never know. The best thing to do is just move on. Because as much as we want to believe it, one call doesn’t decide a game. The refs didn’t lose that game for Baylor. Baylor lost that game for Baylor. And if they want to walk into The Phog on Saturday with a chance, they have to recover as a team. And as we have play as a team. As we witnessed in the Texas game, when Baylor plays as a team anything can happen.
And there’s one more thing we learned: Jared Butler is a super valuable player. We’re going to need him down the stretch.