Refs eviscerated for controversial foul call in Samford-Kansas March Madness thriller

This is one call folks are going to be talking about for a long time.

As No. 13-seeded Samford attempted to catch up to and potentially upset No. 4 seed Kansas on Thursday night in their first-round Midwest Region clash, a controversial foul all but ended the dream as the Jayhawks squeaked by with a 93-89 NCAA Tournament win.

After Jaden Campbell pulled the Bulldogs within one with a 3-pointer with under 15 seconds left in the second half, Kansas inbounded the ball, and Nicolas Timberlake went up for a dunk to try to put the Jayhawks back up by three.

But A.J. Staton-McCray caught him down from behind with what appeared to be a perfectly timed block, giving Samford a shot.

However, it was all for naught.

Officials called Staton-McCray with a shooting foul, and Timberlake sank both free throws and Kansas advanced

They will play Gonzaga on Saturday in the second round, and if Timberlake thought there was any controversy, he wasn’t letting on.

“I was definitely fouled on the breakaway,” he said.

Replays, though, showed Staton-McCray appeared to block just the ball and should not have been called for a foul, leading to plenty of outrage across the college basketball world.

Samford was called for a controversial foul on Nicolas Timberlake (above) at the end of its loss to Kansas.

But any outrage on the call was no help to tiny Samford, champion of the Southern Conference, who was denied a last chance to try to snag its first tournament victory in program history.

“I thought A.J. made an incredible play, you know what I’m saying?” Samford coach Bucky McMillan said. “I’m not faulting the call. You can see it different ways. But I was really proud of our guys’ ability to go make a play.”

“With the game on the line that’s an incredible block taken away from Samford,” TBS analyst Brendan Haywood said.

A.J. Staton-McCray (left) is called for a foul on Nicolas Timberlake late in the second half of Kansas’ win. Getty Images

Rules analyst Gene Steratore agreed with Haywood’s assessment, as did a large swath of social media users.

“Ain’t tweeted in a min but that’s ballllllllll,” Lonzo Ball posted on X in the moments after the call.

“Samford was called for a foul…COME ON! This was ALL BALL,” former NFL quarterback Chase Daniel wrote.

Clark Kellogg, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley discuss the controversial foul on Samford, as well as the review system.— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) March 22, 2024

On the roundtable show after the game, analyst Kenny Smith also blasted officials.

“We sat here and watched them review like seven calls, but they couldn’t review that one,” Smith said.

After all of the hullabaloo, Kansas will next play Gonzaga in the second round.

— with AP

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