The NCAA said officials erred Saturday night by not calling basket interference and goaltending on a Gonzaga player late in the top-seeded Bulldogs' 79-73 second-round NCAA tournament victory over No. 8 seed Northwestern in Salt Lake City.
The Wildcats had trimmed a 22-point deficit to five and had the ball when Gonzaga 7-footer Zach Collins reached up through the basket to reject Dererk Pardon's shot with 4:54 left in the game. There was no call, and Northwestern coach Chris Collins, jawing with the officials all day, ran onto the court, charged toward the referee and was slapped with a technical foul.
Nigel Williams-Goss made both free throws, and Northwestern -- in the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history -- never got closer.
"I mean, it would have been a three-point game," Chris Collins said. "We had all the momentum. The guy puts his hand through the rim. It's a very easy call, in my opinion. But it's an honest mistake. Referees are human beings. They're here for a reason -- because they're outstanding officials. They made the calls. We have to live with them.
"I just believe in my heart if we score there that I think we cut it to three, and there was still four minutes to go, but there was just so much momentum. And look, there's a lot of basketball to be played, but I do believe in my heart that if that's called correctly, we would've had a great chance to win."
Shortly after the game, the NCAA issued a statement saying officials missed the violation under Rule 9, Section 15 of its men's basketball rules book.
"Article 2.a.3 states that basket interference occurs when a player reaches through the basket from below and touches the ball before it enters the cylinder," the NCAA said in the statement. "Replays showed that the Gonzaga defender violated this rule, which should have resulted in a scored basket by Northwestern."
Collins, tongue in cheek, said of the statement: "I appreciate the apology. It makes me feel great."
The NCAA's postgame statement also said Collins was hit with the technical for violating "bench decorum'' rules by stepping onto the court with the ball in play.
"If I see a guy from another team put his hand through the rim and blocks a shot going through the basket, I'm going to react to it if the play isn't called," he said. "I'm a human being, too. I think all of you would. A guy puts his hand through the rim and blocks the shot. To me, that's a goaltend."
After the game, Zach Collins said it was still unclear to him what exactly happened.
"I thought I blocked the shot, and they thought it was a foul,'' he said. "We weren't really worried about [that]. I honestly can't really remember.''
Zags coach Mark Few wasn't pinning the win on that single turn of events. But he more than understood the emotion of the moment.
"You guys feel it and see it when it comes to these games,'' he said. "You lose, your season's over. You win, in Northwestern's case, it's probably the best thing they've done in the history of the school. You react spontaneously, and stuff happens.''
Information from ESPN's Chantel Jennings and Michele Steele and The Associated Press was used in this report.