SPOKANE, Wash. — In Connecticut's 58-53 opening-round victory over BYU in the NCAA Basketball Championships, a couple of fouls caught the attention of the coaches — and a bunch of no-calls caught the attention of players.
When 6-foot-9 shot-blocker Emeka Okafor picked up a foul just 20 seconds into the game, UConn coach Jim Calhoun admittedly started working the officials — and gleefully watched them huddle up to converse during the next time out.
"It was a timely reminder — it's your obligation and duty to do that," said Calhoun, adding "I'll use every political trick I know."
And with BYU trailing 50-48 with two minutes to play in the game, BYU coach Steve Cleveland was dismayed when the Cougars' 6-9 center Rafael Araujo was whistled for a personal when he bumped point guard Taliek Brown when switching and showing on a screen near halfcourt.
"It was interesting, with all the play as it was and how physical it was inside, that something that was 40 feet away, which was barely a touch, would determine maybe the outcome of the game," mused Cleveland.
PLAYER PERSPECTIVE: BYU senior guard Travis Hansen said he was surprised on a number of no-calls during the game. "I definitely thought I got fouled on a bunch of those drives," he said. "Okafor is big-time that they don't call those fouls — but I don't think he's that big-time.
"(Mark) Bigelow got absolutely hosed on a few of those, but Cleveland warned us about that — that in the NCAAs, they're not going to give us those calls."
QUOTEBOOK: Five postgame quotes of note:
Calhoun, who was "impressed" with BYU: "They controlled the game early and the pace of the game. They sent nobody to the boards and still got nine offensive rebounds, yet sent three back — they did a terrific job, really, of stopping our fast break."
Hansen on Okafor and his seven blocks: "When you'd drive, you'd have to pull up and arch that thing over the big guy . . . . He got our big guys kinda confused, and they traveled a lot."
Araujo, on his inaugural NCAA tournament experience: "I feel bad my ball didn't go in. I was nervous — too excited. . . . We can come back and prove we belong."
BYU forward Jake Shoff: "We played very, very poorly — the whole game we played average. We missed shots we hardly ever miss."
Calhoun, on the difficult first-round match against a BYU team that he thought desereved a higher seeding that its No. 12: "When you're a 5 playing about a 7, it's really tough."
STARTING A SERIES: Thursday's BYU-UConn matchup was the first meeting of the two teams. When they golfed during last year's Final Four and coaches convention, Cleveland and Calhoun talked about the possibility of starting up a series.
"Their schedule is so contingent on TV games," Cleveland said. "We tried to do it already, but TV just wouldn't work with us."