The SEC said in a statement that game officials properly administered the NCAA rulebook in ending Saturday’s game between Georgia and Texas A&M.
But it also noted that the officials “failed” to notice that the clock had stopped running, essentially saying they could have stopped the game.
Georgia lost the game, 63-62, when it thought it was about to have two free throws to take the lead and win the game. The subject line on the official UGA account of the game referred to a “bizarre ending,” and the lead paragraph said the clock malfunction “robbed Georgia of a last opportunity.”
The clock stoppage was the result of a “malfunction” in the precision timing system, according to the SEC, which is kept on the belt of one of three on-court officials.
“Game officials failed to recognize the game clock was not functioning properly during live action,” the SEC statement said. “Once the clock stoppage was discovered, NCAA rules were appropriately administered with the use of the courtside monitor for replay and a digital stopwatch to determine that time expired before a foul was assessed to a Texas A&M defender. Because rules do not permit time to be put back on the clock in this situation, the contest was ended.
The clock stopped with 5.6 seconds left, as Georgia held the ball down one. Play continued, with the officials not noticing, and a foul was called, which would have sent Georgia’s Yante Maten to the foul line with a chance to win the game with two made free throws, or tie it with one.
Maten, the team’s leading scorer, was 6-for-7 from the line in the game.
But officials went to the monitor and ended up determining that if the clock had not stopped then time would have run out before the foul against Maten.
Georgia head coach Mark Fox pointed out after the game that his player J.J. Frazier, who had the ball, looked up at the clock, and thought he had more time.
“Evidently, the clock stopped with 5.6 seconds and the clocked stopped for longer than 5.6 seconds,” Fox said in his postgame comments, according to a release by the school. “So when J.J. looked up to see how much time he had to make a play, he sees time on the clock and makes a pass and Yante (Maten) draws a foul. But they (the referees) said when they timed it by a stop watch, it stopped longer than what was left in the game and that the game should have been over.”
Of course, Georgia could only blame itself for the final sequence being decisive. It led by 13 in the second half, and committed a slew of turnovers in the final minutes, unable to inbound the ball clearly on several straight possessions.
It was a potentially devastating loss for Georgia, which is a bubble NCAA tournament team. The Bulldogs now have very little margin for error, and probably need to score an upset of Kentucky, South Carolina or Florida in at least one of the four remaining games against those teams.
Here is the SEC’s full statement:
“With 5.6 seconds remaining in the Georgia-Texas A&M game, there was a malfunction of the Precision Timing system which stopped the game clock while play continued. Game officials failed to recognize the game clock was not functioning properly during live action. Once the clock stoppage was discovered, NCAA rules were appropriately administered with the use of the courtside monitor for replay and a digital stopwatch to determine that time expired before a foul was assessed to a Texas A&M defender. Because rules do not permit time to be put back on the clock in this situation, the contest was ended.
“The NCAA uses Approved Rulings as clarifications to various situations. Further information on the application of NCAA rules in this instance can be found in the NCAA Case Book, A.R. 121.: “A correction is only permitted when it falls within the prescribed time frame limit. When it is determined that there is no time left on the game clock, the (first half) is ended and the personal foul is not assessed.” This example is consistent for application at the end of a game or the end of any overtime.”