NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT : SOUTHEAST REGIONALS : Georgia Tech Beats Clock (?), Michigan State in Overtime


A fraction of an inch, a tick of the clock. One went against Georgia Tech, one went against Michigan State, and Friday night’s NCAA Southeast Regional semifinal went into overtime.

That was fine with Georgia Tech forward Dennis Scott, who sank a shot nobody contested and brought the Yellow Jackets to the doorstep of the Final Four with an 81-80 victory at the Superdome.

Scott decided an emotional, intense game by driving past Michigan State forward Dwayne Stephens across the lane and hitting a hanging seven-foot shot with seven seconds left in overtime.

The Yellow Jackets (27-6) nearly won the game in regulation on a shot at the buzzer by freshman guard Kenny Anderson. Anderson launched the shot with Michigan State holding a 75-73 lead, but when the ball swished through the hoop, only questions remained.

Did Anderson release his shot inside or outside the three-point line?


Did Anderson release the shot before time expired?

Anderson earned a split decision. Officials ruled that Anderson’s right foot touched the three-point line--making the shot worth two points--and determined that the shot beat the buzzer.

Result: A 75-75 tie and another five minutes of basketball.

In that overtime, Scott would get the time to cast the winning shot, but Michigan State Coach Jud Heathcote argued that he never should have had the chance.

“We won the game in regulation but lost the game in overtime,” Heathcote said.

Heathcote said he didn’t believe Anderson’s shot beat the buzzer, but his main complaint concerned the official timekeeping during the preceding moments.

Anderson had pulled Georgia Tech to within 75-73 with six seconds left in regulation. Michigan State inbounded the ball and Smith was fouled with five seconds left.

Heathcote contended that, in reality, three or four seconds were left.

“We inbounded the ball and held the ball for two or three seconds,” Heathcote said, “and we look up at the clock and only one second’s run off. We were incredulous, jumping up and down on the bench. I don’t even know who I can appeal to.”

When Smith missed the front end of a one-and-one free-throw situation, Georgia Tech rebounded and had five seconds to get the ball to Anderson for a mad rush down the court.

At four or three seconds, Anderson doesn’t have enough time to get off a shot, Heathcote said.

Even at five seconds, Heathcote wasn’t sure the shot beat the buzzer.

“The buzzer here, you can’t hear it over the crowd,” Heathcote said. “They have a little tiny buzzer. If I can’t hear the buzzer, how are (the officials) going to hear it with A-1 noise?”

Anderson, of course, sided with the officials.

“I beat the buzzer,” he said. “I know that for sure.”

Georgia Tech Bobby Cremins was quick to fall in line with that opinion.

“He threw it up and the official was right there--'Touchdown!’ ” Cremins said. “I didn’t understand the controversy. The shot was definitely good.”

When the officials concurred, Cremins could live with the two-point ruling.

“They told me, ‘The basket counts, but it’s only good for two,’ ” Cremins said. “I accepted that, because I felt we could beat them in overtime.”

Michigan State (28-6) took a 78-77 lead in overtime on a three-point basket by guard Steve Smith, who finished with a game-high 32 points. Anderson came back to hit a 12-foot running jump shot, putting Georgia Tech ahead, 79-78, with 1:07 remaining.

The Spartans regained the lead on two free throws by Stephens with 23 seconds left, before Scott delivered the game-winning basket.

Scott, who ended with 18 points, sank the shot with seven seconds on the clock. But Michigan State didn’t call timeout until four seconds were left. The Spartans inbounded the ball to Smith, who began dribbling downcourt with his head down, not picking up Heathcote’s frantic signal for a timeout.

Those seconds proved critical. When play resumed, Michigan State had only time for a hurried 35-foot shot by Ken Redfield over two Yellow Jacket defenders.

A little more time might have meant a much better shot.

“We wasted (three) seconds there,” Heathcote said. “I was yelling, ‘Timeout, timeout.’ I don’t know what happened.”

Unlike regulation, the clock ran out too quickly for Heathcote in overtime.