Why Didn't You Foul?

A lot of fans and even analysts on ESPN seemed to believe that NC State should have fouled Maryland again with a one-point lead and a foul to give with 5.2 seconds to play in Wednesday's game.

A lot of fans and even analysts on ESPN seemed to believe that NC State should have fouled Maryland again with a one-point lead and a foul to give with 5.2 seconds to play in Wednesday's game.

Mark Gottfried spent a couple of years working with ESPN as an analyst prior to being hired at NC State, so he understands it is their job... to be right.

"It's easy to make a suggestion and your suggestion is always right," said Gottfried. "As mine were when I worked for ESPN. I had every answer.

"It's easy to sit over there and be brilliant. It's easy. I did it for two years. I was brilliant too."

However, given the time and placement of the inbounds... Gottfried doesn't necessarily agree.

NC Stated led 50-49 with 12.4 seconds to go and Maryland had the ball 94 feet away from the basket. The Wolfpack, which only had committed four fouls, still had two more fouls to use before sending the Terps to the free throw line.

In those situations, most teams foul to take up time and make the opponent inbound the ball again.

NC State was able to do just that, as Lorenzo Brown fouled Pe'Shon Howard with 5.2 seconds to play. State still had another foul to give, and that's where the debate comes in. The Pack could foul again and force another inbounds, which is what a lot of people seemed to believe they should have done. However, it isn't that easy.

"The difficult thing with the ball out on the side with five seconds to go is the offense is going to shoot it quick," said Gottfried. "They may shoot it with four, three, or two, because they are down one. The score is not tied and they could shoot it fast.

"The danger you have there, if you tell your players to foul in that position, and the offensive player grabs the ball and turns it into a shot and somehow you walk out of there with a shooting foul, you've now put the team that was behind on the foul line.

"Everybody then, those people who have all those answers, they would be quiet like a church mouse if that happened."

Gottfried further explained what he instructed his team to do.

"When you foul at that point, you have to be really careful," he said. "That was the message for our team. If you felt like you had a great opportunity to foul a dribbler, then foul. If not, you've got to guard for five seconds.

"The tough thing on that play as well is they threw the ball back to Pe'Shon Howard, and he came with a full head of steam. Now by the time he gets to the top of the key it's about at three [seconds]. If you're playing defense on that guy, you're thinking as soon as you reach in he's going to lift it up... now you're fouling a shooter."

"If you are going to foul with 5.2 on the clock, you've got to foul fast because you're not going to foul at two or one because then you will foul the shooter," Gottfried added. "They are going to shoot the ball, they are not going to hold it. Now if the ball is heading to the basket like it was and you foul, they get the ball out underneath. They have an out-of-bounds play that they are comfortable with. So, sometimes you can help your opponent."

NC State didn't foul and Howard dribbled into the lane, forcing up a floater over Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell, and C.J. Leslie, who came over late to try and block the shot.

With both Howell and Leslie defending Howard, no one was at the rim to box out 7-foot-1 Alex Len, who grabbed the airball and put it back with 0.9 left on the clock to give the Terps a one-point lead.

"The truth of the matter is, on that particular play, Pe'Shon Howard took an off-balance, awful shot, an airball," said Gottfried. "[It's] what you want to have. The tough thing is the airball went right in front of the basket, which was perfect for Len. If that ball hits the rim, hits the backboard, if he shoots it a little higher where it has to bounce in the air... it ended up a perfect storm for them.

"NC State won a national championship on an airball. It happens. It was an airball. If that ball hits the rim, if it bounces off the rim... .9, the game probably ends. It just kind of fell into a perfect place for them. That happens in life too."

"I thought we handled it correctly," he added. "We just didn't get a stop with five seconds to go. That's the bottomline."

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