The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

February 28, 2010

Huggins isn’t for late-game foul rule

MORGANTOWN — There was a rule in college basketball many years ago giving a team fouled during the final two minutes of the game the choice to shoot free throws or take the ball out of bounds.

A media type asked West Virginia coach Bob Huggins whether he would like that rule restored.

“No!” he replied sternly. “I wouldn’t be in favor of that. Why? Because to me, that’s not basketball.

“Sure, that would cut down on excessive fouling late in games. But I don’t know what purpose it would serve.”

The way that rule worked generally, if your team was leading, you would likely choose to retain possession, and if your team was behind, you would probably attempt free throws.

“Well, I’m not for it,” said Huggins, who never played basketball when that rule was being used. “I think that would take some of the skill away from the game.”

Perhaps. But wouldn’t it fit in nicely as a game-deciding or game-ending part of the chess matches Huggins and other NCAA Division I coaches seem to be playing these days and nights?

Think of what might have happened were that rule in effect in those close losses at Pitt and WVU’s home game with Villanova.

If memory serves, missed free throws cost the Mountaineers both games. WVU could have swept Pitt, taking the ball out of bounds and protecting its lead.

Constant fouling by the losing team, which obviously is deliberate, but rarely ever called deliberate by officials, stretches out most games an extra 15 minutes or more in regulation play.

I think it actually hurts basketball.

Huggins would be interested in making one rule change, however. It would be to reinstate the jump ball rather than alternate possessions when there’s a tie-up for possession by two players. That is, provided the NCAA powers-that-be hired officials capable of throwing the ball up properly.

“Why did they take jump basketball away?” the veteran coach asked no one in particular. “I believe they did that because officials couldn’t throw it up (correctly). That’s true.”

And Huggins said this before that “show-off whistle-tooter” ejected him from the game at Connecticut where the Huskies got 42 free throws to WVU’s 23.

To this TV viewer, it looked like the arbiters were calling a distinctly different game at each end of the court.

Why embarrass a head coach with a minute or so left and the game already won by Jim Calhoun’s Huskies?

If I were Mike Stuart, I would feel most unwelcome working games in the WVU Coliseum.

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