SYRACUSE, N.Y. - It's hard to look at the single play that many West Virginia fans - not to mention coaches and players - will point to in a loss to No. 3 Syracuse Saturday afternoon and say that it was the reason for the loss.
After all, had the Mountaineers gotten the goaltending call they thought they should have - and that replays appeared to verify as such - it would only have tied the score. The Orange still would have had eight seconds and/or an overtime in which to attempt to continue its mastery of WVU.
Still, it was huge for more than just the two points it cost West Virginia in a 63-61 defeat. Bob Huggins pointed to how difficult it was - when the Mountaineers managed to get a second chance - to put it behind them.
Thus the rather labored effort to win the game on Kevin Jones' last-ditch 3-point attempt, which was supposed to be a penetration move by Jabarie Hinds with a kickout to Jones.
"We got enough [penetration] to get K.J. the ball, but obviously not enough to get him a good shot,'' Huggins said. "It's hard to get them back refocused after that happened.''
"That'' was the goaltending call, or lack thereof.
Trailing 63-61 with 26.2 seconds to play, West Virginia ran its offense without much success and had to settle for a long 3-point attempt by Truck Bryant with about 10 seconds to play. It hit nothing but Deniz Kilicli's hands under the basket.
But Kilicli was in perfect position and put the ball back up for what looked like the tying layup. But Syracuse's Baye Keita slapped the ball away.
It appeared that Keita should have been called for goaltending, and replays seemed to bear that out. Even Keita seemed to think it was.
"I'm just supposed to try to block those shots,'' he said. "Luckily I got it and the ref missed it. I don't know if that's a goaltending or a block.''
When Huggins was asked about the play afterward, he turned the question back at his inquisitor.
"You saw it. What did you think?'' Huggins asked. "I just saw it. I just went in [to the locker room] and watched it. I mean, it's ... there's not any doubt.
"Did I think it was [goaltending]? No. I know it was. I just saw the replay.''
Huggins' players were a bit more diplomatic.
"I don't know what to say about it. It was a good shot,'' Jones said. "That's all I can say.''
"At the end of the day they didn't call goaltending, so it's out of our hands,'' Bryant said.