Mike Krzyzewski and John Thompson III both refused to credit the Blue Devils' 76-67 win to freshman center Greg Monroe's second-half technical foul. Krzyzewski said that the the foul, Monroe's fourth, simply "stopped the game for a while" and allowed Duke to "right the ship" after the Hoyas had cut Duke's lead to four. Thompson was understandly more terse, saying that "The technical was a key part of the game, let’s not try to run from that," after successfully dodging an initial question about the technical.
Still, it was clear that Monroe's technical foul did change the tenor of the game. The Blue Devils surged from that point, going on a 15-3 run to put the game out of reach. Monroe was noticeably rattled, and when he came back into the game, he was so hesitant to foul out that he backed off on defense.
But the question still remains: Did Monroe actually merit the technical foul? Did he, in fact, say something to Big East official John Cahill, or did the referee attribute a comment from a fan to Monroe?
“A lot of people were saying things," Monroe said after the game. "I don’t even believe he was really looking at the bench, but I know I definitely didn’t say anything. I can’t say if I heard someone else, but I know I definitely didn’t say anything.”
It wasn't as black-and-white in the media.
Reporters on press row were only inches closer to the scene of the crime than the Cameron Crazies in the front row, and CBS cameras did not capture the offense on television, so the evidence consists solely of the personal testimonies of Thompson, Monroe--and, from a column by the Washington Post's Mike Wise, a Steve Bartman-like figure wearing a yellow Steelers cap behind the Georgetown bench who is said to have yelled at the referee, but refused to disclose his name or role in the brouhaha to Wise.
The Fayetteville Observer's Dan Wiederer was more adamant about the shamefulness of Cahill's whistle, demanding an apology from the referee. He doesn't write that the Blue Devils wouldn't have won without the "phantom technical," but he is correct in observing that the game may have been different:
There’s just no way around it. Basketball official John Cahill owes Georgetown an apology. He owes Greg Monroe an apology.
In the second half of a Saturday afternoon street-fight at Cameron Indoor Stadium between two of the nation’s elite teams, it was Cahill’s irritability that somehow provided the biggest momentum shift.
Players are supposed to change games. Coaches, too. But not referees.
And so as Monroe left Cameron still shaking his head over a 76-67 loss and still confused by the most ridiculous technical foul he’d ever received, you hoped Cahill was somewhere nearby hammering out a heartfelt “I’m sorry.”
Here's how other news outlets handled the whodunnit:
- Georgetown had cut a 15-point Duke lead to 46-42 with 15:08 remaining in the second half when referee John Cahill signaled a technical foul on Monroe, who was sitting on the bench. Monroe said afterward that he hadn't said anything to Cahill. (Raleigh News & Observer)
- The Hoyas (12-4), however, awakened from their slumber to close within 46-42. But that's when Georgetown freshman Greg Monroe, a center in the scorebook but a point guard by trade, got whistled for a technical foul -- his fourth foul -- for something he supposedly said on the bench. Monroe seemed much more animated after the call than before it. (Durham Herald-Sun)
- Cahill walked toward the baseline. Thompson walked toward Cahill and continued to talk, although not heatedly. Cahill walked up the side by the Georgetown bench, turned and called the technical on a shocked Monroe. Monroe said that he said nothing to Cahill at any point. The call also saddled him with a fourth personal foul. (Winston-Salem Journal)
- But after an official heard something he didn't like from the Georgetown bench, he spun on his heels and called a technical foul on freshman center Greg Monroe. Monroe's claim that he didn't say anything was ignored, and it offered little solace in the aftermath of the 76-67 loss that brought Georgetown's daunting nonconference schedule to a disheartening close on Saturday. (Washington Post)
- But 6-11 freshman phenom Greg Monroe -- who was on the bench with three fouls -- drew his fourth on a technical. Monroe was flabbergasted, and immediately pointed to the crowd seated behind the Hoyas' bench.... Monroe's hushed voice was barely audible in the postgame news conference, but someone's voice was audible over the Cameron crowd. (Greensboro News & Record)
- One of the key moments in the game occurred shortly after Georgetown had cut the Duke lead to four points. With 15:07 remaining, freshman center Greg Monroe was given a technical foul while he was sitting on the bench. Both Monroe and Thompson expressed disbelief at the call and pointed to a man sitting behind them, suggesting that the fan was the one who had spoken out of line. The call changed the momentum of the game, as Monroe picked up his fourth foul and Duke junior guard Jon Scheyer hit both free throws. (The Hoya)
- But almost as soon as the Blue Devils began dribbling the ball up the court, Cahill, still standing in front of the Georgetown bench, blew his whistle, emphatically signaled a “T” with his hands, and pointed at Hoyas’ freshman center Greg Monroe. Thompson and Monroe were incredulous. Monroe hadn’t said a word, read the lines on Thompson’s furrowed brow. I’m innocent, screamed Monroe’s exasperated visage. Thompson pleaded his case to each of the three referees and walked over to the scorer’s table, but to no avail. (The Hoya)
- But roughly 30 seconds later, Henry Sims was whistled for a blocking foul near the baseline and Monroe objected from the bench, prompting the technical foul from official John Cahill -- the fourth foul on the Hoyas' 6-foot-11 big man. (Associated Press)
- A longtime Big East official, Cahill issued a stern warning to Thompson and then turned his back on the Georgetown bench to record Sims' foul at the scorer's table at the 15:08 mark with the Hoyas still trailing by four. Whiplashing around moments later after clearly hearing some invective, Cahill walked straight back to the Georgetown bench, pointed directly at Monroe and whistled him for a technical foul. (Washington Times)
But just as Georgetown started to wear down the Blue Devils, the Hoyas coughed up momentum in a costly error from their leading freshman, center Greg Monroe. After a foul was called on teammate Henry Sims, Monroe appeared to say something to an official walking by the Hoya bench.
Looking back, that was probably too casual of a description, especially given the consensus among other media outlets. We'll edit the language and handle the case with more caution for Tuesday's print edition.
Before then, though, what do you think: Did Monroe say anything? And how should reporters have written about the situation?
UPDATE: ESPN analyst (and Duke alumnus) Jay Bilas, who was sitting on press row, weighs in:
I didn't hear the warning given to the Georgetown bench in the first five minutes of the second half with Duke leading 46-42. But I did see the reaction of Hoya freshman Greg Monroe when official John Cahill whistled Monroe for a technical foul (his fourth personal). Cahill's back was turned to the Georgetown bench, then he turned around and called the technical on Monroe. Monroe reacted immediately, protesting that he said nothing, and pointed behind him to a fan. If Monroe was acting, he certainly fooled me. Georgetown didn't lose because of that technical foul, but it was certainly a major factor in the game. I am not saying Monroe didn't say anything because I don't know. All I know is, if the official had ignored what he had heard behind his back and the technical foul call had not been made, nobody in the building or watching the game on television would have noticed a thing.
The technical foul call raises a couple of questions. First, was that technical call really necessary? To me, the answer is no, even though it may have been justifiable. The official's back was to the bench, and he could not reasonably be expected to identify the culprit in that loud atmosphere. In my judgment, the official should have ignored it and moved on. Both benches were demonstrative and reacted to calls all game long. In my judgment, that was not the right place to draw the line.