Revisiting a pivotal flagrant foul in Tennessee’s defeat of Arkansas

First things first.

What the game-changing fouled was called, according to the NCAA, was incorrect.

“Intentional foul,” was the call announced at Thompson-Boling Arena after Arkansas reserve guard Kikko Haydar hacked then grabbed UT forward Jeronne Maymon while the Vols trailed by two late in the game. “Intentional foul,” said the men calling the game on TV. But intentional fouls were eliminated from the college game in 2011.

In an ideal world, everyone — myself included — would have said, “Flagrant 1.” The NCAA switched things up in 2011. Flagrant 1 fouls are basically the same as intentional fouls — the other team gets two free throws and the ball. But the definition was tweaked some. Here it is, straight from the rulebook.

A flagrant 1 personal foul is a personal foul that is deemed excessive in nature and/or unnecessary, but is not based solely on the severity of the act. Examples include, but are not limited to:

1. Causing excessive contact with an opponent;

2. Contact that is not a legitimate attempt to play the ball or player, specifically designed to stop or keep the clock from starting;

3. Pushing or holding a player from behind to prevent a score;

4. Fouling a player clearly away from the ball who is not directly involved with the play, specifically designed to stop or keep the clock from starting; and

5. Contact with a player making a throw-in.

6. Illegal contact caused by swinging of an elbow which is deemed
excessive or unnecessary but does not rise to the level of a flagrant 2
personal foul

Now that we’ve cleared that up, was Haydar’s foul worthy of the flagrant designation? Arkansas coach Mike Anderson didn’t think so. He told the officials. He told everyone.

“McRae played well, but the MVP was the flagrant foul call,” he said after the game. “You get in two or three minutes and that’s one that should play on. I thought it just changed the whole dynamic of how the game was going.” 

Anderson was right. The call definitely changed the game. Maymon made both free throws and Jordan McRae buried a 3-pointer. UT never trailed again and won 81-74.

After reviewing the call and the rulebook, I think Anderson is wrong about that. I wasn’t sure at first. From press row, I only saw the 5-foot-10 Haydar hack 6-foot-8 Maymon across the arms. A hard foul. A good foul. Not a flagrant foul.

What I missed was what happened next. As Maymon continued to try to score, Hadyar, now behind Maymon, latched on in order to stop the shot. Look at this then read this: “Pusing or holding a player from behind to prevent a score.”

A tough call, yes.

But I think it was the right one.