It didn't cost UConn the game. It didn't make the difference in Providence's 72-70 win over the Huskies. It wasn't the worst call I've ever seen. But UConn freshman center Andre Drummond did not deserve the technical foul he was assessed with 5:07 left in the game.
Drummond was guilty of nothing more than tossing the ball back to Ayers. He didn't throw it. He didn't hurl it. There was no intent to hurt Ayers.
"I didn't see anything," UConn associate coach George Blaney said. "[Ayers] said [Drummond] threw the ball too hard to him. I said, ‘It's Andre Drummond. He would not do that. He doesn't know how to do that. He's too nice a person.' I cannot imagine that was intentional."
Back it up a bit. Providence had already rallied from 14 down to take a 59-56 lead. Drummond gets whistled for a foul when he throws an elbow at Bilal Dixon. No argument there. There was absolutely no need for a flying elbow.
As Ayers started toward the scorer's table, Drummond flipped the ball toward him. Ayers wasn't looking. It clearly caught the official off guard. Ayers thought Drummond threw the ball at him. But he couldn't have known. He wasn't looking in that direction. I watched the replay a dozen times today and I'm confident that is the case.
If Drummond had thrown the ball, Ayers would have known it. Drummond said he tried to give the ball back and "one thing led to another." He said he wasn't going to complain about officiating – and he didn't.
"I was a little confused by the call," Drummond said in the hallway outside UConn's locker room. "That's not an excuse, it's part of the game. I tossed it to him, and I guess he wasn't prepared for that and thought I tried to throw it at him. I guess he wasn't looking, so it looked like a cheap shot."
As a general rule, those of us who cover college athletics try to avoid stories about officiating. Referees have a difficult job, so there's no need to make the task any harder. Journalists should be neutral and objective. So, straying into the world of officiating is risky business.
It can make you sound like a homer.
But an interesting note on Ayers is that he was part of the officiating crew that was disciplined in January for failing to notice Louisiana-Lafayette had six men on the court at the end of a victory over Western Kentucky. Officials are human. They make mistakes. But sometimes you have to wonder about the schedules kept by the busiest officials – and how that impacts their judgment.
According to statsheet.com, an Internet site devoted to tracking officials in all sports, Ayers has called 85 games this season – second most in the nation. Only Brian Dorsey, with 87, has more. By comparison, Jim Burr (a much more recognizable name than Ayers) has called 57. John Cahill is at 65 and Ted Valentine 80.
Ayers has called 16 games in the ACC and 12 in the Big East. He has traveled to 21 states this season. He called UConn's 73-70 overtime victory over Villanova in Philadelphia on Feb. 20. The game in Providence on Feb. 28 was Ayers' sixth since the Villanova game. He worked Saturday in Durham, N.C., Sunday in Louisville and Tuesday in Providence.
Ayers has called 17 T's this season, which is tied for 57th among all officials - well behind Bo Boroski, who is first with 39.
Just the facts. Draw your own conclusions.