Did refs cost Baylor a chance to beat UConn? LeBron James thought so

Henry Bushnell
·3-min read

The most dramatic game of the 2021 NCAA tournament — or tournaments, really, women's or men's — came down to a controversial final possession Monday night in San Antonio.

No. 1 seed UConn, with its remarkable Final Four streak on the line, led No. 2 seed Baylor by a solitary point in the Elite Eight. After two missed UConn free throws, Baylor had the ball, and 18 seconds to find a game-winning bucket.

Dijonai Carrington, the Lady Bears' leading scorer on the night, drove to her left. Two UConn defenders met her – and sure seemed to foul her as she tried to rise for a mid-range jumper.

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The refs, though, saw nothing. The shot fell well short. UConn held on, and survived to advance to its 13th consecutive Final Four.

The lack of a call on Carrington's shot left Baylor coach Kim Mulkey fuming. And fans were right there with her. Among them: LeBron James.

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Even former UConn star Swin Cash admitted the refs "missed that foul."

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Carrington certainly thought she was fouled too. “I, personally, don't see it as a controversial call. I've already seen the replay, and one girl fouled me in my face, and one girl found me on my arm," she said at her postgame news conference.

“We drew up a play, [teammate NaLyssa Smith] got fouled posting up, and I got fouled driving. So, nothing we can really do about that situation in particular.”

A few minutes later, she tweeted: "You can't swallow your whistle when the game is on the line."

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The first question of Mulkey's postgame news conference was also about the final play.

What did you draw up, and what did you see? a reporter asked.

"What did you see?" Mulkey shot back.

"I was surprised they didn't call a foul," the reporter said.

"Then write it like that," Mulkey said sharply. "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."

The no-call will overshadow an excellent, high-quality, compelling, back-and-forth game that felt like it could've been a national title showdown. Baylor took control in the second and third quarters, and went up 10 with two minutes remaining in the third.

Around that time, though, point guard DiDi Richards pulled up with a heartbreaking hamstring injury. It "swung the whole momentum," Mulkey said. UConn went on a 19-0 run. Baylor recovered, and made a late comeback, and could have completed it if Carrington had gone to the free throw line. But she never got the chance.

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