By Neill Ostrout
STORRS _ Kevin Ollie lost his cool. UConn lost a basketball game.
One didn’t necessarily impact the other.
No. 18 Louisville beat UConn 76-64 late Saturday night before a raucous sellout crowd at Gampel Pavilion.
Shabazz Napier scored a career-high 30 points in the loss for UConn (14-4, 2-3 AAC).
Russ Smith led Louisville (16-3, 5-1) with 23 points and teammate Montrezl Harrell added 18 points and 13 rebounds. The Cardinals dominated the post, pulling down 15 more rebounds and scoring 40 points in the paint.
But it was the officiating, which Ollie and the 10,167 fans in attendance loudly protested, that will probably be remembered. Ollie was ejected by referee Mike Stuart with 13 minutes left in the game and his team trailing 47-38.
After UConn forward Niels Giffey’s shot fake made Louisville’s Wayne Blackshear leap into the air, Blackshear bumped into Giffey on the way down and committed an apparent foul. Giffey flung the ball toward the basket in an attempt to make the foul a shooting foul instead of a common one, but the officials made no call the ball landed out of bounds.
Incensed by the lack of a foul, Ollie raced down to the corner and was immediately issued a technical foul by Stuart. Not two seconds later, Stuart called another technical, which signaled the coach’s automatic ejection.
Even after being tossed, Ollie did not leave quietly. Kevin Freeman, UConn’s director of basketball administration, had to escort his boss off the court. Ollie also threw in a few words for one of Stuart’s fellow officials, Ted Valentine, as he walked off the court.
“Niels went up and got hit in the shoulder or the arm or wherever,” Ollie said. “Shabazz did the same thing later on and they called that foul.”
Ollie was asked if he “earned” the ejection.
“I’ve seen the replay. I think I jumped around a little bit, sprinted. I guess, I don’t know,” Ollie said.
“I don’t know if was warranted or not warranted,” Ollie said. “I thought they gave me the first T and I didn’t really have a chance to do anything and then the second one game.”
Stuart gave a brief explanation to a pool reporter (ESPN’s Andy Katz) when asked about the incident after the game.
“Two unsportsmanlike Class A technical fouls. The first one was reacting to running down the sideline. The second one was coming on the floor to protest the call.”
Ollie, now in his second year as UConn’s head coach, had only received one other technical foul in his tenure. The last time a UConn coach was ejected was Dec. 7, 2007, when official Wally Rutecki tossed Jim Calhoun.
In another odd twist to the officiating, the third member of the crew was actually a last-minute replacement. Tom O’Neill was originally scheduled to work the game with Stuart and Valentine but was stuck in Chicago because of the weather.
Brian O’Connell, who worked the Georgetown-Seton Hall game Saturday afternoon in Washington, filled in for O’Neill and was the only one of the three to avoid significant taunts from the crowd and complaints from the UConn coaches.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino said he thought the ejection actually hurt his team _ bringing the noise level back to a fever pitch _ but the Cardinals did score seven more consecutive points to go up 54-38.
“Especially Kevin Ollie, you don’t want to ever see…Jim Calhoun, you want to see him get thrown out,” Pitino joked.
UConn is now 1-6 when playing against the defending national champions. It’s last such win was an 84-56 triumph over Syracuse Feb. 2, 2004.
UConn fans will remember the game as the one that their coach was tossed and the officials seemed to have it in for them.
In reality, it was a probably case of Louisville winning with rebounding and defense. The Cardinals’ 2-3 zone confounded the Huskies for much of the night.
“We went back to what we did two years ago. We felt that with only one day and the way they shoot free throws, the best we could do was soft press. We weren’t trying to force turnovers,” Pitino said. “We went back to two years ago playing a matchup zone to try and confuse them about what we were running defensively. We didn’t feel we could press them. We didn’t feel we could get in a running game with them with (Chris) Jones being out.”
Ollie thought the rebounding issue was a bigger factor but largely agreed with his counterpart.
“It came down to them out-rebounding us by 15,” Ollie said. “We’ve been doing a good job the last three games getting those timely rebounds, getting those 50-50 balls. We didn’t do that tonight. That was the ball game.”