In all of his years in basketball, Larry Brown never had experienced a game ending the way this one did. Yanick Moreira, his senior center on SMU, knows that he never again will have a chance to experience it, or any other kind of ending. That is why he was so sad.
"It's all my fault. I should have let the ball hit the rim," said Moreira, whose career ended with a controversial goaltending violation with 13 seconds left, a call that allowed a three-point basket on Bryce Alford's wild shot and gave UCLA a 60-59 win in an NCAA Tournament South Regional second-round game.
SMU, coached by the 74-year-old Brown, did have two final chances, a pair of missed three-pointers by Nic Moore. And it had blown a seven-point lead in the final 1:25, and it had thrown the ball away with 26 seconds left.
Still, the signature moment was the whistle for goaltending.
Alford, son of UCLA coach Steve Alford, took a pass at the left baseline, dribbled around a screen to the left wing and took a fallaway fling. It did appear to be short, but an official immediately ruled that Moreira had interfered with it and called the basket good, turning a 59-57 SMU lead into a staggering one-point deficit.
"I asked them to review it," Moreira said. "They reviewed it for two seconds and came back and said it was a three-pointer. I've never seen that happen before. That was too quick."
Brown, a coach for 40 years and the only man to win titles in both the NCAA and NBA, said, "I still don't get it. I'm not saying it wasn't goaltending. I have no clue. But it was a five-second judgment."
But official Sean Hull told a pool reporter: "The call is goaltending and it isn't reviewable." He cited rule 9.3a, article 3 and said the play met both criteria -- it was on its downward flight and had the possibility of going in. He added that the brief review was about whether it was a two- or three-point basket.
Alford said of his shot, "I don't know if it would have gone in or not, but he definitely grabbed it on the way.'' With that basket, he finished with 27 points, all on three-pointers (9-for-11).
The ending overshadowed a stirring 19-0 second-half run that brought SMU (27-7) back to life. Moore had 11 of his 24 points in that spurt.
"You don't look at one play,'' Brown said. "We had our chances to win and it didn't happen. I'm sick for these kids."
Said Moreira: "Until I get another chance to play again, it's going to be hard. It's going to be stuck in my head. Maybe I will never let it go."
Alford the coach, whose team is 21-13, said, "I've been on both sides. That's the madness of March. As special as March is and exciting as March is . . . it's brutality when it ends. Obviously, ending it this way, that's not a lot of fun at all."