I am certain Montross is tired of being the poster boy for the Duke-UNC rivalry after he bled from a cut under the eye during the first game in 1992. Now the media has a suitable replacement, that of a bloodied and fuming Hansbrough looking to wring the neck of any Duke player he could get his hands on before the UNC staff escorted him to the locker room. It was quite the capper to a wild weekend of ACC basketball. Here is a breakdown of what I saw after the jump.
Hansbrough had collected a rebound and was going to score again with his trademark tenacity when Duke’s Gerald Henderson leapt into the air at which point Hansbrough lost the ball. Henderson swung wildly leading with his forearm in what appeared to be a blind swipe at…well…anything he could make contact with. What he found was the bridge of Hansbrough’s nose who fell to the floor and laid there a few seconds before popping up, obviously enraged by the free flow of blood coming off a nasty laceration on his nose. Hansbrough was held back by referee Karl Hess, Dewey Burke and finally the coaching staff who made the decision to send him to the locker room. It should be noted that this is the second time in four games against the Devils that a Duke player has struck Hansbrough in the face. It happened last season at Cameron when Sean Dockey hit Hansbrough in the face at the end of the game which did not result in anything other than a common foul.
Subsequent to the foul, the referees reviewed the play and ruled the forearm shot to be a “combative” act which resulted in Henderson’s ejection and his suspension for the next game which happens to be the ACC Tournament first round matchup versus NC State. And not that it wasn’t interesting enough it continued in the post game press conference when Coach K apologized but also questioned why UNC still had their starters in the game(an accusation people never make unless something happens.) Roy responded in kind saying that they both still had starters in and given the 8 points in 17 seconds game as a part of this rivalry it was not necessarily out of line. And for those of us who had the sound up, we had to listen to Billy Packer spin this as a hard but not intentional foul.
Here is my take.
I find myself somewhere between Packer’s idiotic defense of Henderson and the assertion that Henderson intended to inflict harm. I am also one not to look at the consequences of the foul but rather the foul itself inside a vacuum. There are basically two major issues with the foul. The first is the fact the ball was clear of the play before Henderson even begins his forearm swing. If you look closely at the replay, you can see where the ball squirts free and then Henderson seem to take a huge swipe which ends with his forearm smacking Hansbrough in the face. There is also a great deal of focus on the close up slow motion replay as the definitive answer to the question since it also shows Henderson may have been swinging with his eyes closed. This leads to second issue which is the fact Henderson followed through with the swipe and then had the forearm come forward to contact Hansbrough face with incredible force. If you watch the play at full speed, the downward force of his forearm is fairly shocking. So, the fact the ball was not there and he contacted Hansbrough face with his forearm instead of his hand led to it being called the way it was called.
So in my opinion what you have here is an out of control play which included a level of frustration that led to Henderson taking a swipe with considerable force and unfortunately for him he ended up hitting Hansbrough with the forearm. So in one respect I am not sure he was out for blood but at the same time he was out of control and was not aware of what was going on in respect to the ball. I also think the foul was called correctly. It was an egregious foul even if Hansbrough does not come up with a bloody nose and since the ball was out of the play it cannot be argued he was making a play for the ball. The forearm contact also looks more like a combative act and the officials have no choice but to call it as such for the simple reason of precedent. If you let this one slide then you open a can of worms as to whether or not such an act might be construed as a attempt to cause injury or accidental in nature. The downside for Duke is that the NCAA rules are specific as to what happens next and that is a suspension.
As for the postgame sparring in the media by the respective coaches, debating whether Hansbrough should have been out there or not is utterly pointless. The play stands on it’s own and whether Hansbrough was out there or not, Henderson still committed a bad foul. One clear fact remains and that was up until that point in the game Duke was still fouling to stop the clock and engaging in a full court press to see if they could rally despite being down 12 with 20 seconds left. As for Roy, he stated he had a sub ready for Hansbrough but the free throw was missed and play resumed. In the final analysis Henderson still committed a exceptionally hard foul which had all the signs of player swinging at the ball without any real control. And if Coach K wants to dance around the issue by playing hypotheticals instead of manning up from the very start and apologizing for the hit(which he got around to after a while) then we can all hope that NC State shoots 76% in the second half against Duke’s sorry rear ends on Thursday night to give us all the pleasure of seeing the Devils exit Tampa after only one day.