However, video replay indisputably shows that instead of 4.4 seconds left on the game clock following a tying 3-pointer by Tigers guard Vernon Hamilton, there should have been roughly 3.0 seconds on the clock.
But as is the case more times than not, the referees consciously or subconsciously helped out the Blue Devils with more time, which was just enough to have David McClure hit the game-winning layup and propel No. 10 Duke to the 68-66 victory over a disheartened No. 17 Clemson team Thursday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“It all happened so fast,” Hamilton said. “I really thought after I hit the three that it was time to go to overtime.”
There’s no way of knowing whether or not Jon Scheyer would have hit a game-winner or not at the end of regulation or whether the Tigers (18-3, 4-3 ACC) would have won in overtime. Nonetheless, all they want is a fair shake.
“There’s no way that’s all the time that had passed,” Hamilton said. “If I had time to catch, look and shoot, it definitely had to be more time than that this.”
The final 12.7 seconds was just a whirlwind of odd and fantastic plays.
Following a pair of Gerald Henderson free throws with 12.7 left to play, Duke held a seemingly safe 66-61 advantage.
Hamilton took the ball after the made free throws, raced down the court and hit a layup to cut it 66-63 with 5.0 seconds remaining. This is when things get hairy.
Duke center Josh McRoberts tried to inbound the ball to Greg Paulus, but Paulus slipped and the ball went perfectly to Hamilton, who was standing at the top of the key.
He bent over, picked up the loose ball, looked around him to see who was near and fired his game-tying 3-pointer.
However, the clocker never started when Hamilton touched the ball. Instead, it began winding just as it was about to go through the hoop. Realizing his mistake, the clock operator let the time run down a tad longer instead of stopping it immediately as the ball went through the cylinder.
With the score tied at 66-66, the clock showed 1.8 seconds. But the referees, who consisted of Tom Lopes, John Cahill and Mike Kitts, determined through video replay that there should be 4.4 second on the clock for Duke to get off its final shot.
Again, apparently it only takes six-tenths of a second to catch a ball at your ankles, look on either direction of you and hoist and a 3-pointer.
“I don’t exactly have the fastest release, so I know there was more than a second off the time,” Hamilton said.
Even with the screw up with the time, all Clemson had to do was prevent the Blue Devils (17-3, 4-2 ACC) from going 94 feet and hitting a shot with 4.4 seconds left.
On that final play, the ball was inbounded to Scheyer, who got the ball in the right corner. Tigers forward James Mays went for the steal and got behind Scheyer, which allowed an open court and sent the Clemson defense into disarray.
Scheyer dribbled up court and into the middle near the 3-point line, but instead of shooting it, he lofted a pass just in front of the basket to McClure, who turned and laid it in at the buzzer.
Video replay confirmed to the refs that he got the shot off in time. This time, they got the call right.
“Because they were scattered all over the place, I was open and was able to put it in,” McClure said.
Oddly enough, had Clemson been able to secure a defensive rebound, the game likely wouldn’t have been decided in the final seconds.
The Blue Devils grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, compared to Clemson’s six. Duke outscored the Tigers 19-4 in second-chance points, which is where they have killed their opponents.
“I thought the rebounding throughout the game really cost us,” Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. “Our inability to keep them off the offensive glass allowed them to keep the working margin they had for most of the game.”
After having some defensive breakdowns in the first half and Clemson’s inability to hit a field goal over the final 5:31 allowed the Blue Devils to hold a 36-25 lead. But the Tigers turned up the pressure in the second half and clawed their way back into the game.
But in the end, the valiant effort just wasn’t enough.
“The bottom line is they’re hurting and I told them that they should be,” Purnell said. “This kind of loss when you’re a good team coming in expecting to win should hurt.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Vernon Hamilton
Despite having a severe stomach virus that caused him to go to the hospital Monday night, Hamilton put forth an admirable effort and nearly willed his team to victory. He hit the final five points, including the game-tying 3-pointer with the imaginary 4.4 seconds left.
TURNING POINT: The referees in their infinite wisdom determining that there were 4.4 seconds left on the clock instead of the 3.0 second that it should have been. The extra 1.4 seconds allowed Duke just enough time to get the game-winning shot.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I don’t have any arguments because I don’t have anything to base it on. I don’t have any proof or feeling that it was handled poorly. I haven’t had a chance to study that,” Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said on whether or not he feels his team got slighted. Odds are he’ll have a different opinion after viewing the film.