DiJonai Carrington, resting on one knee near the baseline, spoke for many.
“What?” she mouthed.
Seconds earlier, Carrington had held Baylor’s season in her hands as it tried to beat Connecticut and claim a spot in the N.C.A.A. women’s basketball tournament’s Final Four. Taking a pass near midcourt, Carrington faked a drive to her right and then curled, left, around the elbow at the foul line and down the left side of the lane. Met near the baseline by UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards and Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Carrington spun and rose for a shot with four seconds left.
And this is where opinions begin to differ.
The shot never reached the rim. Carrington crashed to the floor. No whistle blew.
UConn’s players raced upcourt, celebrating. Baylor’s players and coaches pointed to the spot of the collision, exasperated. Coach Kim Mulkey threw her arms out wide, frustrated.
And Carrington rose to one knee and, stunned, asked the one question so many were asking: What?
“I personally don’t see it as a controversial call,” Carrington said. “I’ve seen the replay, and one girl fouled me in my face and one girl fouled me in my arm.”
She was even more direct on Twitter.
“You can’t swallow your whistle when the game is on the line,” she wrote. “Film does not lie.”
“What did you see?” a reporter asked Mulkey in her postgame news conference.
“What did you see?” Mulkey snapped back, teeing up a response she knew was coming. Told by the reporter that, in her opinion, the lack of a foul call had been a surprise, Mulkey lit into the decision.
“Then write it like that,” she fumed. “You don’t need a quote from me. I’ve got still shots and video from two angles. One kid hits her in the face and one kid hits her on the elbow.”
Mulkey wasn’t alone in that opinion. As UConn celebrated its 69-67 victory, a conversation was raging: Was it a foul? Had the referees robbed Baylor, and handed UConn the win?
W.N.B.A. stars thought it was a foul.
Former UConn stars thought it was a foul.
Even LeBron James thought it was a foul.
But, crucially, the referees did not think it was a foul. And neither did UConn Coach Geno Auriemma, whose team booked its 13th straight trip to the Final Four. He was in no mood to look over his shoulder at the details.
He laughed off the criticisms on social media. He mocked James for thinking a controversial late-game call was unusual.
“I probably doubt,” Auriemma said of James, “that in his career he’s ever won a game and decided to give it back because he looked at it and went, ‘That was a foul.’”
He also detailed a handful other curious calls, and noncalls, during what had been a physical affair between Baylor and UConn for 39 minutes 58 seconds before Carrington rose for her final shot.
“We probably fouled a number of times during the game and we didn’t get called for it,” Auriemma said. “They probably fouled a number of times during the game and didn’t get called for it. We got free throws because of nonfouls. You could go back and forth through the whole thing.
“The bottom line is the officials did what they’re going to do. And if they would have said it was a foul, I would be on the other end going, ‘You can’t make that call and make that call a foul.’ So it is what it is.
“I’m not going to sit here and apologize for it. And if people are going to want to talk about that the rest of the week, you’re welcome to do that. It’s not going to change the outcome.”