Here we go again. To foul or not to foul.
This has become a hot topic in basketball in recent years. It reared its head again during Cincinnati’s 71-68 upset of top-seeded Syracuse in a Big East semifinal at Madison Square Garden on Friday.
Syracuse trailed Cincinnati, 69-66, with less than 20 seconds to go.
Dion Waiters, who had already drained seven three-pointers, had the ball with five seconds left. Cincinnati fouled him before he could attempt a three. Waiters wasn't in the act of shooting so he was awarded two shots, because the Bearcats were in the double bonus.
It turned out to be the smart move. Waiters made both free throws. Cincy made the inbound pass and finished off the game with a dunk.
Cincinnati coach Mike Cronin was not about to let Waiters hit his eighth three-pointer.
“I don’t know what his numbers were, but he made some big time shots to get them back in the game,” said Cronin.
This scenario rears its ugly head constantly in basketball. The Knicks were faced with the same situation last Sunday against the Celtics. They didn’t foul and Paul Pierce hit a 25-foot three to send the game into overtime.
It was the same deal for St. John’s in the Big East Tournament last year. Ahead 64-61 with 17.7 seconds left, St. John’s fouled Rutgers’ guard Mike Coburn. Coburn drained both free throws and cut the Storm’s lead to 64-63 with 14.3 seconds left.
The play nearly backfired on St. John’s as they turned it over on the ensuing inbounds play. But Rutgers couldn’t capitalize and eventually lost, 65-63.
The bottom line is most coaches will tell you it’s a 50-50 proposition. St. John’s madethe right play, committed the foul with too much time left on the clock. Cincinnati made the right play, too, but fouled Waiters with only five seconds left, leaving little margin for error.
The result? Cincinnati gets the win and may have played itself into a fifth or sixth seed.