Despite key call, try not to cry foul

ATLANTA

Tyler Hansbrough fouled J.T. Thompson. Video and still photographs prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

But please don't pin Virginia Tech's demise Friday on an official's snap judgment. Don't torment yourself with Carolina conspiracy theories and what-ifs regarding this fierce ACC tournament quarterfinal.

To do so demeans the efforts of young men such as Malcolm Delaney, Thompson and A.D. Vassallo in maroon, and Ed Davis, Wayne Ellington and Hansbrough in white.

Instead acknowledge that wounded North Carolina defeated desperate Virginia Tech 79-76 because the Tar Heels are bigger, deeper and more versatile.

This is the second consecutive year No. 1 UNC has broken Hokie hearts at the ACC tournament. And yes, the oh-so-slim margin between defeat and victory likely will again deny Virginia Tech an NCAA tournament bid.

I can't imagine how maddening that must be for the Hokies, their coaches and fans. But as Thompson said quietly, stoically and ever-so maturely, "No complaints."

Thompson was addressing questions about a final-minute sequence in which he mistakenly caught a Delaney pass intended for Dorenzo Hudson on the left wing. Tech trailed 77-76 at the time, and Thompson snared the ball in the paint with less than 10 seconds remaining.

Seeing Vassallo lonesome on the right wing, Thompson attempted to pass. But he was swarmed by Hansbrough, Davis and Bobby Frasor, and referee Karl Hess, who's worked six ACC championship games and the last three Final Fours, ruled a held ball between Hansbrough and Thompson.

The clock showed 5.2 seconds. The possession arrow pointed toward UNC.

"What I saw doesn't count," Greenberg said.

"I felt there was a little (contact)," Thompson said. "Obviously the refs didn't. No complaints."

Jeff Allen fouled Hansbrough on the ensuing inbounds play, and Hansbrough made both free throws. Vassallo's bid for a tying 3-pointer was off target from release, leaving the Hokies at 18-14, 2-7 in their last nine games.

Back to The Play. Had Hess whistled Hansbrough for a foul, North Carolina still would have been under the limit, forcing Tech to inbound the ball without a timeout remaining.

That the Tar Heels were under the limit, and the Hokies over, gnawed at Greenberg. That Hansbrough, one of the greatest, most punishing, and most punished, players in conference history had just one foul, that on purpose with 16.6 seconds remaining, didn't thrill him either.

"I guess we foul and they don't," Greenberg said.

Foul trouble sidelined Vassallo (team-high 26 points) and Allen for about eight minutes. Without them, Tech had little chance of withstanding Hansbrough, Davis, Deon Thompson and Tyler Zeller (54 points and 24 rebounds combined) inside.

Yet Vassallo's fouls were legit, as were Allen's. Officials called 20 on the Hokies, 14 on the Heels, the last three of which were on purpose.

But it needs repeating: Whistles didn't decide the game.

You want to find where Tech lost this one? How 'bout allowing the seldom-used Zeller to score on a fast-break layup in the waning seconds of the first half and a stickback with 3:38 left in the second? Or the rushed jump shots that short-circuited several possessions?

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