SALT LAKE CITY — Instead of a goaltending call, two points and the ability to continue riding the momentum Northwestern had built in battling back from a 22-point deficit, Chris Collins and the Wildcats got an apology from the officials.
Within minutes of Gonzaga’s 79-73 victory over Northwestern at Vivint Arena, a statement was released by the NCAA addressing the mistake that caused Collins to get tagged with a technical with just under five minutes to play.
“I think we were down 22, cut it to five, should have been three I guess with the statement from the NCAA,” Collins said after the game. “Not sure what all that means. All I know is I’m flying home, but it’s nice. Thank you for the statement; appreciate it.”
The statement said that with 4:57 remaining, officials missed a “rules violation when a Gonzaga defender put his arm through the rim to block a shot. Replays showed the Gonzaga defender violated this rule, which should have resulted in a scored basket by Northwestern.”
Judging from the crowd’s reaction, the officials might be the only people who missed the play. Collins watched the defender’s hand, draped in the net, make the defensive stop on the shot from Dererk Pardon, and he was livid.
“Subsequently, with 4:54 remaining in the game, and based on bench decorum rules outlined in the rules book, a technical foul was assessed to Northwestern head coach Chris Collins for coming onto the floor to argue the non call while the ball was in play,” the statement said.
Collins discussed the mistake and his technical, which Bulldogs guard Nigel Williams-Goss made to extend Gonzaga’s lead to 65-58, in the postgame press conference.
“They made the calls,” he said. “It is what it is. They issued a statement. I appreciate the apology It makes me feel great.”
ALKINS PLAYS INJURED, EARNS KEY STEAL
Freshman guard Rawle Alkins, who had a critical steal down the stretch and bolstered the Arizona defense, was going for a rebound when he dislocated a finger on his right hand.
"My hand was swollen," he said. "And my right hand was like a left hand. I came off the court and I was just scared. I thought it was a serious injury, and then they popped it back in."
He watched his team fall 10 points behind Saint Mary's as trainers examined his hand.
"I told the trainer to do whatever it took to get back on the court," Alkins said. "They did an X-ray and luckily it was a minor fracture. I told them I would still play, and I just ran back out on the court and told (coach) I was ready to play. He put me back in."
Coach Sean Miller did so and said that if Alkins had not returned to the game, the Wildcats may not be headed to the Sweet 16.
"I don't know if we would have had enough to win," Miller said. "It would be one tough kid to pop your finger back midway through the first half, come out on your shooting hand and play the rest of the game."
A NOD TO THE LOUDEST FANS
Northwestern sophomore forward Vic Law was the last player to leave the court after Saturday’s loss.
“In all these games, I feel like Northwestern has had the most fans,” Law said of what he was thinking in those postgame moments. “We’ve had the best atmosphere of the teams. And when you get all your famous alumni to come back and support you, when you get all the previous teams to come back and watch the games, I just feel like the fans were so special and that they were right in the game with us. I think as much as we deserved this, the fans were flying out here and giving us as much love as they did deserve just as much credit as we do.”