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To foul or not to foul

It’s a situation that just continues to rear its ugly head. It has happened three times in the Big East tournament.

If you’re up three and on defense near the end of a game, do you foul the other team before they can get a three-pointer off, or do you play defense?

That exact scenario came up in UConn's 76-71 overtime win over Syracuse in a Big East semifinal on Friday night.

UConn had a 68-65 lead with 15 seconds left. Huskies coach Jim Calhoun opted to play defense instead of foul. That decision proved costly as Scoop Jardine drained a three-pointer from the left side to tie the score at 68 and force overtime.

“We told everybody to pick them up,” Calhoun said. “Scoop was wide open and made a tough three-point shot. He was wide open, I guess. But we made a mistake and I don’t believe in that theory and I wasn’t going to start tonight.”

On Tuesday, Rutgers was in that very situation and allowed Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell to drain a three-pointer with one second left and force overtime. Rutgers' coach Mike Rice said after the game he doesn’t like to foul in that situation. But he said he may change that philosophy after getting burned by Hazell. Rutgers eventually won the game, but it could've easily went the other way.

Now we fast forward to St. John’s against Rutgers on Wednesday night. Ahead 64-61 with 15 seconds left, St. John's Malik Boothe fouled Rutgers' Mike Coburn. It was a designed play by Red Storm coach Steve Lavin. It almost backfired as Hardy fumbled away the in-bound pass from Sean Evans after Coburn made the second free throw. But Rutgers couldn't convert on the ensuing possession.

"We played Rutgers earlier on our home floor this year and we didn't foul, 30 seconds to go we tried to get one stop and they buried a three on us with eight seconds to go," Lavin said after that game. "So we weren't going to allow them to do that because they'd done it to us once this year."

In the 2008 NCAA championship game, Memphis had a three-point lead on Kansas with 10 seconds left. Tigers coach John Calipari opted not to foul and Kansas’ Mario Chalmers drained a three with nine seconds left to tie the score at 63 and force overtime. Kansas won it in the extra session, 75-68.

It’s a situation that has caused much debate over the years and most experts have decided to agree to disagree on it.
 

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