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    Play-by-Play Theater: Earliest disqualification

    by Ken Pomeroy on Monday, February 6, 2012


    Today’s episode of PBPT comes via a suggestion from John Ezekowitz, one of the brains behind the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective. Ezekowitz was at a game in which Brown’s Tyler Ponticelli, fouled out with 13:34 left in the game, which appears to be remarkably early for a DQ. Usually a player in foul trouble, even a reserve, is protected from action with this much time left in the game.

    The NCAA keeps tabs on the quickest disqualification, a record I’ve reported on in this space before. The current record holder in that category is San Diego State’s Ben Wardrop who played just 71 seconds before fouling out in a 2004 game against Colorado State. That record isn’t all that special because the aspirants for such a feat are in the game specifically to foul. They’re just doing their job really well. The record Mr. Ezekowitz requests involves players who are trying to stay in the game but unable to do so.

    As usual on PBPT, we can’t know the true record since we don’t have the play-by-play for every game in college basketball history. But since we have PBP from 99.9% of the nearly 15000 games played over the past three seasons, we can get a very good handle on what the extreme case looks like. And while the Ponticelli situation was somewhat extreme, there are a handful of cases where a player fouled out earlier in the second half. However, youngsters, if you want this record, you will have to get your work done before halftime.

    In 14,648 games, there has been one case of a player fouling out in the first half. It occurred just a couple of weeks ago. The date was January 21, 2012. The site was the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, where New Mexico State visited the University of Hawaii. And it was a match made in early-disqualification heaven.

    New Mexico State is the nation’s runaway leader in free throw rate. Their center combo of Hamidu Rahman and Tshilidzi Nephawe are free throw ATM’s, drawing 8.2 and 5.5 fouls per 40 minutes, respectively. You might have expected that Hawaii’s front line would get in foul trouble and get in trouble they did.

    Vander Joaquim, Hawaii’s stud center (better Vander: Joaquim or Blue?) isn’t terribly foul prone, but he drew calls at 18:09 and 17:02 of the first half. Joaquim though merely plays a supporting role in this edition of PBPT. Hawaii head coach Gib Arnold is one of our stars and he really values Joaquim.  So other than a 75-second cameo later in the half, Arnold would keep his starting big man on the bench for the remainder of the half. This isn’t an unusual tactic, especially since the Warriors led for the entire half. It might be reasonable to save your best player for the second half in that case.

    This is where things get interesting. Enter Joaquim’s replacement, Davis Rozitis. If there’s one thing the USC transfer loves, it’s the sweet, sweet sound of the Fox 40 whistle, so much so that he’s personally forced an official to make that sound 8.5 times per 40 minutes he’s been on the court this season. Rozitis versus the New Mexico State front line is all you need for another crazy edition of PBPT.

    It all started innocently enough for the seven-footer. Shortly after replacing Joaquim at the 16:45 mark, Rozitis would contribute a blocked shot and a couple of offensive boards including a putback. But then things quickly went downhill as the play-by-play attests.

    14:02	UH	FOUL by ROZITIS,DAVIS		
    13:03	UH	FOUL by ROZITIS,DAVIS
    12:06	UH	FOUL by ROZITIS,DAVIS
    11:34	UH	FOUL by ROZITIS,DAVIS
    

    Rozitis picked up his fourth foul less than nine minutes into the game. At this point, Coach Arnold had choices. He could go small and play 6-7 Hauns Brereton at center, he could put Joaquim back into the game for a few minutes, or he could allow Rozitis to go for the kind of record-breaking glory that would impress everyone this side of Nykesha Sales. Rozitis didn’t just have a chance to set a record, he had a chance to put it out of reach for all future college basketball players, and thus, Coach Arnold really had only one option.

    Rozitis remained in the game and would contain himself for five straight minutes until he was subbed out for the brief re-appearance by Joaquim. But the big man returned at the 5:08 mark and with 1:55 left in the first half he committed his fifth foul. His night was done, having made the kind of history that may never be witnessed again.

    A few footnotes to this occasion:

    - Rozitis’s line was very solid. In 14 minutes, he scored nine points, grabbed five offensive rebounds and had three blocked shots. In 24 minutes, Joaquim went for 11 and 10 with four blocks. That qualifies as amazing production from the center position, even if the duo racked up nine fouls.

    - The game summaries scarcely mention the achievement. In fact, the version posted on the Hawaii web page doesn’t mention it directly.

    Sophomore post Davis Rozitis ably filled in for Joaquim, logging nine points, five rebounds and three blocks in just 14 first-half minutes.

    The dispatch from Las Cruces waits until the final sentence to note the unusual accomplishment:

    Not only did NMSU get Joaquim into early foul trouble, but backup center Davis Rozitis fouled out in the first half with nine points, five rebounds and three blocks.

    - Since we’re looking at individual foul data, it’s worth noting that Rozitis set the record for quickest fourth foul, as well. The quickest to three fouls in the database was Middle Tennessee’s Shawn Jones, who picked up his third at the 18:48 mark of the first half against Vanderbilt on 12/21/10

    - Determining the quickest to two fouls is probably stretching the accuracy of PBP data, but it goes to Southern Illinois’ Mykel Cleveland, who picked up his second foul just 20 seconds into a game against New Mexico on 12/1/10. Cleveland had a special game there: Starting both halves, he got credit for one minute played, one (charge-induced) turnover, and four fouls.

    - Finally, I was impressed that all five of Rozitis’s fouls were of the contact variety. I fully expected the record holder to have picked up a fourth foul and then been T’d up in order to receive his fifth. But no, Rozitis earned his way into history. Props to Rozitis, Arnold, and New Mexico State’s foul-inducing offense for putting together a show for the ages.