I was at the UNLV-UNM game [Saturday] and saw something I’ve never seen before.  A UNLV big man takes an elbow to the face on defense which results in a flagrant 1 foul.  He has to be removed from the game.  UNLV puts in guard Kendall Wallace who hits both the free throws and then is immediately subbed out for a big man.

This occurred with about 17 minutes left in the 2nd half.  Statistically the ESPN Box gives Wallace one minute played, however the UNLV box gives him 0.  For reference, when a player has less time that a full minute the UNLV box normally lists their minutes as 0+.  Even the UNLV play-by-play doesn’t list Wallace’s entrance or exit from the game.


This was actually the second consecutive game where I’d seen someone come off the bench to take flagrant free throws. Last Thursday, Utah’s Alex Mortensen shot free throws without entering the game after Solomon Hill’s ejection-worthy elbow early in the second half against Arizona. Mortensen would reappear in the game during garbage time, therefore he didn’t get the zero-minute designation in the box score.

Having officiated one college basketball game in my life, I feel like I have a slightly-advanced knowledge of the rules of the game. I’m no Jim Burr, mind you, but I have a larger interest in the rules than most folks that cover the game. As you may know, part of the flagrant foul rule is that if the offended party is injured, the coach of the offended team can select anyone on the roster to shoot the free throws.

Art. 3. (Men) When an injured player is unable to attempt a free throw try(s), one of the four remaining players on the playing court shall be selected by the opposing coach to attempt the free throw try(s) unless the committed foul was either intentional personal or flagrant. In such a case, the injured player’s coach shall select any player or team member to attempt the free throw try(s)

The only other time I recall a zero-minute, two-point performance was in the 1997 Final Four when Rick Pitino sent Derek Anderson in to shoot technical free throws when he was sidelined while recovering from a torn ACL.  Which brings me to my own personal rules obsession: I’ve never seen anyone use the Pitino move since, and that stuns me because there have to be times when a team’s best free throw shooter is not on the floor when a T is called.

Like the flagrant/injury scenario, technical free throws do not have to be shot by someone who was on the floor when the call was made. Unlike the flagrant/injury situation, pulling this kind of stunt for a technical foul comes at a slight cost. The substitution isn’t a freebie. If a player subs in to shoot the free throws, someone must go to the bench, and the departing player can’t come in again until after the next live ball.

So if a benchwarmer is a stud free throw shooter, the coach is forced to make some sort of lineup change to accommodate him shooting technical free throws and returning to the bench. Still, unless a coach has an extremely short bench it seems like there would be cases where this is a worthy trade-off. Besides, how often do you see a shooter sub in for technical free throws even to stay in the game? It doesn’t seem like it ever happens, and I don’t understand why.

Either coaches aren’t aware of this possibility or they are very particular about their substitutions. One would hope if Scott Wood isn’t on the floor when a technical is called against an N.C. State opponent, that Mark Gottfried would have him shoot the free throws anyway.