The third game of 2023's men's basketball Elite Eight between No. 5 San Diego State and No. 6 Creighton was a thriller through the very end. There were a number of close calls during the final minute that were pivotal to deciding the game. Here's what happened.
The tying basket
San Diego State took a 56-54 lead with 1:37 to play. On the next three possessions, Creighton and San Diego State missed field goals. Then, the Aztecs inbounded on the sideline with 34.2 to play.
SDSU's Adam Seiko attempted a pass to Micah Parrish underneath the Creighton bracket, but Seiko overshot his teammate as the ball landed in the hands of Creighton's Baylor Scheierman. That led to an easy layup for Scheierman to tie the game at 56.
The go-ahead basket
San Diego State took possession with it all even at 56 with 32.4 left to play. With only a 2.4-second difference between the shot clock and game clock, Lamont Butler dribbled out the first 24 seconds of the shot clock. As a potential pick shot up to the top of the key, Butler went opposite and Creighton took its foul-to-give with 6.7 seconds to play. The foul reset the shot clock, turning it off for the game's end.
A few timeouts later, SDSU was faced with another inbounds play. This time, the ball made it into play and ended up in the hands of Darrion Trammell a few passes later. Trammell drove to the rim and attempted a floater from the free throw line, but was fouled by Creighton's Ryan Nembhard with 1.2 seconds remaining.
Trammell would make 1 of 2 free throws, missing the first and making the second to put SDSU up 57-56.
Nembhard's left hand was on Trammell's hip as he attempted the floater. While one can argue just how much Nembhard's contact disrupted Trammell's shot, the play was still a foul by the definition of the rules.
The final play
Down one with 1.2 seconds to play, Creighton had to inbound from underneath the opposite basket. Scheierman, a former high school quarterback, launched a full-court pass which made it near Creighton's basket. Creighton's Arthur Kaluma and SDSU's Aguek Arop both jumped up into the air and the ball was tipped out of bounds as time expired.
Or so we thought.
While the clock read zero, the referees initiated a review of the final play to ensure time truly expired.
What really happened on the final play
The referees reviewed the final play for three minutes and 35 seconds before reaching a verdict.
First, they had to make sure Scheierman didn't step over the out of bounds line on the inbounds pass. As you can see, his foot didn't step over the line, making the throw legal.
Then, the referees had to check the clock to see if any time remained. But there was a problem!
The clock never started when a player first touched the ball in the air. As you'll see below, the ball tipped off of the SDSU and Creighton big men's hands and went back into the air, but the clock remained at 1.2 seconds.
Referees had to go old school and manually start the clock. After review, the referees determined that time expired by the time the ball hit the ground and San Diego State would win the game and advance to its first-ever Final Four appearance.
Statement from the NCAA on the final review from Creighton-San Diego State. pic.twitter.com/qm622Lu1iz— Joel Lorenzi (@jxlorenzi) March 26, 2023
Rewatch the ending
You can rewatch the entire ending below: