It was a brutal call. Absolutely, positively horrendous. The kind of call that looked bad at full speed and got worse with each replay.
An offensive foul on Jeff Pendergraph with 16.9 seconds left took away a spectacular tying basket, fouled out ASU's forward and might have pushed the Sun Devils into the National Invitation Tournament all with one tweet of a whistle Thursday in Los Angeles.
Who knows what would have happened in the final seconds. USC would have had the ball and a chance to win. But a chance at high drama was stolen by the wrong call, made by the wrong referee with a poor perspective of the play.
And since it happened in the Pac-10 tournament, by typically substandard Pac-10 officials, it comes as no surprise whatsoever.
And that's why the Devils have no one to blame but themselves.
When you go the final 9 1/2 minutes without a basket, you put your fate in the hands of the shakiest group ever to wear stripes. When you allow Taj Gibson to put up 11 points and nine rebounds, you're playing with fire. When you miss free throws down the stretch and fail to capitalize on poor calls that went your way, you have to live with the consequences.
Perhaps it was just ASU's turn. Stanford and California were both robbed at UCLA. Arizona was robbed at home against Stanford. In a league where the level of play is among the best, if not the best in the nation, to have great games between great teams continually decided by Larry, Moe and Curly in stripes is an embarrassment to those calling the shots in Walnut Creek. Enough already.
WILL THEY EVER LOSE AGAIN?
Mike D'Antoni finds is all comical. Rick Adelman, fired in Sacramento because the Kings couldn't play defense, is now hailed as the mastermind behind the Rockets, who have now won 20 straight games despite losing Yao Ming for the season.
The Rockets losing Yao is similar to the Suns losing Amaré Stoudemire two years ago - they are now forced to play small and up-tempo and with guard Rafer Alston exploding, they have found it to their liking.
"Rick's always been a great coach. But while we're all happy for him, he can feel free to quit winning any time now," joked D'Antoni, who has watched Houston rocket within a game of the lead in the West. "He sat out for two years (after getting fired in Sacramento) and the guy has only won 50 games every year and 60 percent of his games."
• Just when you think the Western Conference can't get any better, Greg Oden gets back on the basketball floor and reminds you the young Blazers will be pushing their way into the playoff picture next season - all the more reason that time is of the essence for the Suns.
• While it was fun to watch Billy Crystal dig in as a Yankee Thursday, enough is enough with the celebrities lacing it up in real games. The Yankees have fantasy camps just like most other teams, the perfect place for a 60-year-old to live out his dream.
• Typical Cardinals. They get Larry Fitzgerald's new deal done two weeks too late to retain Calvin Pace or sign anyone of significance in free agency. Nobody does it better.
• Former Coyote Georges Laraque, now with Pittsburgh, is back in hockey's hoosegow after his elbow to the noggin of Buffalo's Nathan Paetsch cost him a three-game suspension and more than $20,000. Paetsch was knocked cold and is out - likely for much longer than three games - with a concussion.