ATHENS — A stuffed miniature bulldog made for a controversial ending at Georgia on Wednesday night in Mississippi State’s 68-67 victory.
UGA rallied from 17 points down to tie the game at 67-67 before State’s Quinndary Weatherspoon was fouled with 0.5 seconds remaining and went to the free-throw line for two shots.
As Weatherspoon’s first free-throw attempt rattled out, a small stuffed bulldog landed on the court behind him inside the 3-point arc.
UGA coach Tom Crean went to the scorer’s table and got on the arena microphone, urging fans not to throw anything else on the court.
But seconds later, without any more fan interaction, official Steven Anderson assessed Georgia a technical.
Weatherspoon, knowing he had an extra shot coming, sank the technical free-throw attempt for the game-winning margin.
“I’ve never seen that, not without a warning, and certainly not without an explanation,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said, clearly baffled by the technical foul. “The rule says you’ve got to be able to know who did it.”
There were some Mississippi State fans in attendance, but the referees did not identify the fan who threw the stuffed bulldog at the time of the infraction.
UGA athletic director Greg McGarity conceded it’s a judgement call, but not one he had seen applied in that situation.
There hadn’t been any prior fan issues out of the crowd of 7,153, some of whom had left after UGA appeared hopelessly behind.
Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said he was just happy to get out of Athens with a win and protect his Bulldogs’ NCAA Tournament resume.
“Well I feel very fortunate to sneak out of here with a win tonight,” said Howland, whose team has won three straight to improve to 19-7 and 7-6 in the SEC. “That’s a huge play, someone throwing a little bulldog.
“I don’t know who did that, but man I would be so frustrated if I were his team, the University of Georgia, to have that happen. That was crazy.”
The timing of the technical foul seemed all the more odd, as the officials did not call a technical immediately after the object was thrown.
It wasn’t until after Crean grabbed the microphone and asked the crowd not to throw any more items on the court that the technical foul was called, and the extra free-throw awarded.
Did the stuffed baby bulldog decide the game?
“It’s the whole woulda coulda shoulda, but you miss the first, maybe you miss the second and go into overtime, but we’re never going to know,” said Crean, whose team dropped its seventh straight game to fall to 10-16 and 1-12 in SEC play. “I’m just perplexed that no one out there would tell me what’s going on. It makes zero sense to me.
“We’ll deal with it behind the scenes.”
Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean
Mississippi State coach Ben Howland