If Running Into a Shooter’s Legs Was Legal, Auburn Would Be Playing for the National Title

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - APRIL 06: Kyle Guy #5 of the Virginia Cavaliers attempts a game-winning three point basket as he is fouled by Samir Doughty #10 of the Auburn Tigers in the second half during the 2019 NCAA Final Four semifinal at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 6, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
A small foul of big consequence. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

If you can, listen closely to the below highlight, which is of the critical play from Saturday’s Final Four game between Virginia and Auburn. After Virginia’s Kyle Guy misses the would-be game-winner from behind the arc, you can hear a surge of cheers. Those are Auburn fans, unaware that the referee had whistled Tigers guard Samir Doughty for jumping into Guy’s leg.

The infraction was borderline accidental, but it was indeed a foul. It would take a few seconds for the message to reach all the Auburn supporters in Minneapolis’ cavernous U.S. Bank Stadium, and the delay was particularly unfortunate for at least one fan.

Down 2 points, Virginia couldn’t have picked a better person to step to the line than Guy. The junior guard has a career free throw average of 80 percent, and he cooly drained all three attempts to give his team the 63-62 lead. Well, he only looked cool. Afterwards, Guy admitted that he was “terrified.”

The game had all the makings of a monumental collapse for Virginia before Guy’s intervention. Auburn went on a blistering 10-0 run in the closing minutes to take a 59-57 lead, and the Tigers stretched their advantage to 4 after a pair of made free throws. In a bit of foreshadowing, Guy hit a difficult 3-pointer from the corner with 9 seconds remaining to bring the game within striking distance.

Doughty committed his fateful foul on Guy in the opposite corner, but replays indicate that Virginia shouldn’t have been granted that last opportunity. Forward Ty Jerome had lost the ball off his leg while bringing it up the court, and the referees failed to call him for a double-dribble when he continued the possession.

There would only be one bad non-call in the game’s final seconds, and Virginia benefited from the officials’ 50-percent success rate in that regard to sneak into Monday’s national championship game. It was an especially cruel way for Auburn to lose, and there’s at least one beer-soaked Tigers fan who can attest to this heartbreak.