Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes took a timeout with Tennessee trailing, 75-70, in the final seconds of the Vols loss at Arizona Saturday night.
Zakai Zeigler’s third three-pointer of the game cut Arizona’s lead to five but Barnes wanted to talk to the officials, not his team, about a play that happened 30 seconds earlier. Trailing by four in the final minute, Santiago Vescovi drove to the basket in transition looking to draw a foul on Arizona’s Oumar Ballo.
Tennessee’s Tyreke Key momentarily chased down the rebound after the no call but lost it through contact with a Wildcat. The officials didn’t call a foul and Arizona got to the free throw line in transition essentially ending the game.
Barnes wasn’t pleased with the final piece of officiating in a game that saw Arizona shoot 27 free throws compared to Tennessee’s 10.
“I have a lot of respect for these three officials,” Barnes said. “I’ve known them for a long time but not real happy because I didn’t see it that way. And I don’t want to take anything away from Arizona. We were going inside as much as they were and I don’t know. I don’t know what to say other than I thought a couple plays at the end— it’s going to be tough for us to look at. I know when we get that on tape it’s going to be tough to look at them with our players.”
Both Tennessee and Arizona get to the free throw line at a high clip but the Wildcats attempted 14 free throws before the Vols tried their first. Tennessee didn’t go to the basket quite as frequently as Arizona but the Wildcats attempted just two more shots at the rim than Tennessee did.
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A number of Arizona’s free throws came off of the bonus, particularly in the first half. The officials let both teams play for the first 10 minutes of the game, calling just three fouls on Tennessee and two on Arizona. In the rest of the first half, the Vols were called for nine fouls compared to Arizona’s four.
The Wildcats scored nine of their final 11 first half points at the free throw line as they erased Tennessee’s lead to knot the game at 35 at halftime.
Barnes wasn’t critical of the entirety of the official’s performance, noting Tennessee was “out of control” on three first half charges.
However, Barnes was particularly displeased with the late game no call that swung the spread from potentially two points (with two made free throws) to six.
“I know those guys are trying to work hard but that one play at the end where Santi went down the court and all three guys said they didn’t see it,” Barnes said. “That’s tough to take at that point in time. Like I said, I’ve got great respect for those guys. I’ve been around them but certainly there was a wide difference in free throws tonight.”
Arizona handed Tennessee its second loss of the season and ended its eight game winning streak. The Vols return to Thompson-Boling Arena Wednesday to face Austin Peay before opening up SEC play at Ole Miss on Dec. 28.