NEW YORK — Everything was going swimmingly in UConn's latest comeback bid Tuesday night. After a rebound on the defensive end by Amida Brimah, Daniel Hamilton came down the other way and buried a 3-pointer. What was once a 20-point deficit was suddenly a three-point game, with Maryland playing on its heels.
On the ensuing inbound, Jalen Adams was whistled for a foul. Kevin Ollie did not like it. He took it out on some papers and made a mess, earning a technical foul.
Three made free throws later, Maryland was up six, UConn's momentum had disappeared and the Terrapins were able to finish the job. The Huskies could not overcome the error, as Maryland won the Jimmy V Classic showdown at Madison Square Garden 76-66.
Here is an excellent look at Ollie's technical foul.
This will get you a technical foul. Every time. What a stupid, stupid reaction by Ollie. https://t.co/PF4089wSR2— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) December 9, 2015
Based on that video—on that indisputable video evidence—Ollie turned and hit the scorer's table. Then he turned toward the table again and threw the papers toward the court.
Ollie explained what he thought happened after the game, though he did not address it in his opening statement, which lasted two minutes and 22 seconds. He had to be asked.
"I just hit the stand where the stats people were, and they had some stats up there," Ollie said. "My hand took the stats. That's why they probably called the tech. The only thing I did was slap that. I didn't see no papers, and the papers went flying."
That would be a marginally passable statement if it wasn't so glaringly false. He turned back to the table after hitting the table, looked right at the papers and thrust at them. There is no justifying that, especially with 2:44 to play in a three-point game.
To not take any responsibility is shocking from Ollie, a man who is usually quick to admit his mistakes. You can't blame the papers.
The worst part may not even be the lack of accountability, but the way he brushed the whole thing aside.
"It's no big deal," Ollie said. "We just have to keep coming back. That's not the game. The game is getting down by 20. The game is not being tough on the backboards. The game is not getting free throws. The game is shooting the percentage that we shot in the first half. You can't do that against a great team."
All true, but none of that is an excuse for a coach's blatant lapse in judgement late in a game.
Did it change the game? It killed UConn's momentum, at least. Ollie did not see it that way, however.
"I don't think it changed it," Ollie said. "(Maryland guard Melo Trimble) hit a free throw, missed one, then he was going to the free-throw line anyway, so it was going to be five or six."
Trimble missed the second of the two free throws on the technical. It could have been a four-point game if Ollie had not reacted to Adams' foul.
Did Adams' commit a foul? Yes, albeit a rather soft one to call. Ollie even admitted it was a foul, though he said it did not need to be called in that situation. Whether it did or not (if it's a foul, it should be called), there is no justification for that reaction in that situation, ever.
UConn played well in the second half. It came back again after being down 20 points. The mistakes early in the game spelled doom for the Huskies, but when it became a game again, UConn had to avoid any and all mistakes, both on and off the court. Ollie's team was in a position to win. He needs to be smarter.
Some have argued this would not be an issue if it was Jim Calhoun. False. Calhoun could get angry at times and earned his fair share of technical fouls, but he was often smarter in those situations. Ollie's ejection against Louisville last year was different. Down big in the first half against a great team, Ollie's team needed a spark. Down three against a great team with three minutes left, Ollie's team needed restraint.