Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Fingertips and fractions of a second: Was Sabatino Chen’s shot good vs. Arizona?

Good? Not good?

The Arizona-Colorado game touched off a firestorm of tweets, GIFs, video cutups, conspiracy theories … all in search of the elusive truth: Was the banked 3-point shot from Buffs guard Sabatino Chen good at the end of regulation?

None of it is particularly conclusive. You can watch until your eyes bleed.

Chen had the ball in his hand with 0.1 seconds left in regulation as he took a 3-point shot from just to the left of straightaway. Move the video one frame, and the clock on top of the backboard — that’s the official time — reads 0.0 and the shot appears to be away. Check it out here.

Jeff Borzello of CBSSports.com tweeted, “This is the Zapruder film of the 2012-13 college basketball season.”

What happened in between the frame at 0.1 seconds and the one at 0.0 seconds? Did the ball leave in time? Here is a screenshot from the ESPNU telecast.

The three-man crew, led by Verne Harris, looked at the television monitor for about three minutes before waving off the shot.

“Are you kidding me?” said Colorado coach Tad Boyle, asked what he thought of the shot being overturned. “It’s just disappointing because our team played well enough to win. … But it hurts. It hurts bad. I’m not going to lie.”

While the officials were doing the review, Arizona coach Sean Miller huddled his team, presumably to discuss strategy for overtime. Well, not exactly.

Colorado celebrates what it thinks was the game-winning 3-pointer at the end of regulation. Photo by Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

“I was sending the officials a subliminal message that I knew the shot was no good,” Miller said, smiling. “It was all an act. I had nothing to say.”

Of the officials, he added, “They said it could have gone either way.”

It went the Wildcats’ way, and then, after fighting back from a 16-point second-half deficit, having survived an eight-point hole with 1:44 to go … Arizona ran away from the 80-80 tie to win 92-83 in overtime.

Official James Breeding told TV announcers courtside that the ball was still in Chen’s fingertips. That’s what it came down to: Fingertips and less than a 10th of a second.

John Adams, the NCAA coordinator of officials, texted to the Sporting News that the referees made the right call.

“On my home TV and watching replay, I couldn’t see the ball off fingers until 00 on clock,” Adams wrote to the Sporting News. (Mike DeCourcy has more about several questionable calls in the game.)

The Cats had all the momentum in overtime. Colorado, which hit 10 of 15 3-pointers in regulation, missed all six of their shots from behind the arc in overtime. The Buffs made only 4 of 12 free throws in the final two minutes of the regulation and overtime.

“Once we got it to overtime, I knew we were going to win the game,” said Arizona senior guard Kevin Parrom. “Simple as that. The game was over.”

There were dozens and dozens of things late in the game that could have changed the outcome, but only that banked 3-pointer — good, no good? — will be long remembered. It was almost the greatest night of Chen’s career, by miles.

The senior guard scored a career-high 15 points and matched his career total by making two 3-pointers. He entered the game 2 of 23 for his career … and then went 2 of 4 from behind the arc vs. Arizona.

Or was it 3 of 5?

“I was guarding my man and I had just seen the ball go in, and I just got a little upset,” said guard Mark Lyons. “I was like, ‘We worked this hard for him to bank in the shot?’”

Teammate Nick Johnson said he had the right call all the way.

“I knew it wasn’t good,” said Johnson, who immediately gestured with his hands to implore the refs to wave off the shot as Colorado celebrated. “I was just holding to my gut feeling … and that’s what they said.”

Yep. That’s what they said. But the debate will continue.

Should Sabatino Chen's shot have counted?
Yes: 43%
No: 56%
622 users voted
Search site | Terms of service