SALT LAKE CITY — No one really knew what happened. And then within minutes Twitter had dubbed it one of the most bone-headed plays in NCAA tournament history.
Vanderbilt had just taken a one-point lead on Northwestern with 18 seconds to play in Thursday's first-round game in the NCAA tournament. And once the Wildcats inbounded the ball, Commodores guard Matthew Fisher-Davis fouled Bryant McIntosh to send him to the free-throw line.
Fisher-Davis clearly made a mistake, and after the game it was revealed he didn't know his team was winning at the time. Certainly that would have had to be the case in order for him to do what he did.
The magnitude of his error became instantly obvious when McIntosh knocked down his two free throws to first tie the game and then to give Northwestern a one-point lead in the final seconds. Vandy missed a go-ahead 3-point try at the other end, and that was that. The Cats won, and the Commodores were going home.
Still, no one really knew what happened.
"At first I thought I had made the mistake, thinking we were up one and they needed to foul," McIntosh said. "I was pushing the ball up the floor, and when they fouled I looked at the clock and was just kind of shocked, didn't understand it. At that point, I had to just shift my focus to making the free throws. It doesn’t matter if I don’t make them."
"Honestly, I didn't know why he did that," Sanjay Lumpkin said. "I actually said to (Vanderbilt guard Nolan) Cressler at the free-throw line when (McIntosh) was about to shoot the free throws — I didn't really see it, I asked him why he did that. He goes, 'Dude, I have no idea.'"
In the end, it will go down as a game-saving moment for Northwestern and a game-costing one for Vandy.
And for Fisher-Davis to be the goat is a tough turn of events for a guy who helped fuel the Commodores' comeback from a 15-point second-half deficit. He scored 14 points in the second half, more than twice of any of his teammates, and hit two huge 3-pointers.
"He made a mistake at the end, yeah, I mean I'm not sure what happened," Vandy's Luke Kornet said. "He's the type of person that he feels some blame for it. The second half, we had no chance if he didn't make some of the shots that he did. I just wanted to let him know that we're with him no matter what. Every single one of us and what our team is, I'm going to make mistakes and everybody is going to be around me and supporting me and vice versa. That was just how it was."
"It could have been a miscommunication," Vandy coach Bryce Drew said. "He looked over at me before. But one play doesn't lose the game for you. And I'm proud of the guys fighting back and being in that situation. Without him we're not even close to being in that situation at the end."
It ended up turning into another one of the biggest moments in program history for a Northwestern team playing in its first NCAA tournament. The Cats advanced to play top-seeded Gonzaga in Saturday's second-round game.
So whether you want to say they benefited from a screw-up or were in the right place at the right time, they'll take the win.
"Hey, at the end of the day," Vic Law said, "I'm glad he fouled him."