(Georges Niang hits the floor with seven seconds left in regulation. Elijah Johnson is on top of him)
(The referees swallow their whistles on the charge/blocking foul, but manage to pull them out just in time to call a foul on Niang; who's still lying on the the ground with Johnson on top of him.)
So that's how Iowa State's 22-game home court winning streak ends. Not with a bang. With a weak no-call/bullshit whimper of a call at the end of regulation.
When Elijah Johnson crashed into Georges Niang on Kansas' final possession in regulation last night, the refs had to call something. The result of that contact should have been either a charge (very likely, because Niang was in position and had his feet set) or a block (less likely, but Iowa State was playing Kansas). Whatever the result, a foul should have been called at that point.
Now, it's pretty meaningless to harp on officiating. Refereeing is a difficult job, and calls can be subjective a lot of the time. No game is called 100% correctly, and bad calls go against both teams in any given game.
But the last thing a ref wants is to directly influence the outcome of a game in the final seconds. That's what happened last night. The Big 12 refs clearly blew a call on the Jayhawks' last possession that led to Kansas tying the game. Take a look:
2013 2 25 20 21 40 (via RunTheFloor)
One way or another, a foul needs to be called on that play. It's pointless to second-guess the officiating, but Iowa State should have regained possession with seven seconds left. Kansas would have probably had to foul immediately, and that would have allowed Iowa State to shoot the free throws that could have iced the game. The fact that the sequence of events played out like it did cost ISU the game.
And credit to the Big 12, the conference's coordinator of officials is going to review the calls in the game. Not that that's going to change anything about last night's loss, or influence any referee behavior in the future, or give Iowa State another win. But still, the thought is nice, Big 12.
So let's not get overdramatic. This loss didn't cost the Cyclones a trip to the NCAA tournament. The odds of winning the Big 12 this year at this point in the season were slim to none. But it cost Iowa State something incredibly valuable: Their home winning streak in Hilton.
Before last night's loss, Iowa State had the third-longest home-court winning streak in the nation. The Cyclones had won 22 straight in Hilton. Their last loss was to Missouri (remember Missouri?) back on January 12, 2012. During that stretch, Iowa State often looked like a completely different team at home than they did on the road. In the friendly confines of Hilton, Iowa State could beat #5 Kansas and #10 Baylor and they could crush decent teams like Oklahoma and BYU by 20 points. On the road, they could lose to Texas and Texas Tech.
Iowa State's home court advantage has always been something that Cyclone fans have taken immense pride in. Even when Iowa State has had down years, Iowa State fans and players could console themselves by creating an intimidating atmosphere inside Hilton Coliseum. It's Hilton Magic. It's special.
But now the 22-game win streak is over. It didn't end with a bang, with a huge blowout loss or a tough game against a superior opponent. It ended with a blown call at the end of a well-played game; a game Iowa State was in a good position to win. Now Iowa State has to hit the reset button. How do you feel, Cyclone nation?
Yup. That about sums it up.