The Chris Webber timeout: 'We were going to win … then we weren't'

8:25 AM ET

If you are of a certain age, you remember the moment known now as The Timeout. You might not remember precisely where you were standing or who was with you when it happened on April 5, 1993. But the people who found themselves standing in the middle of it certainly do.

For the rest of us, the 35 million people who were watching the NCAA championship game between Michigan and North Carolina, we remember the feeling we all had, the physiological reaction we all had, no matter which team we were rooting for. That is true even now, almost 25 years later, and it will be especially true Wednesday night, when those teams meet for the first time since that fateful engagement in New Orleans (7:30 ET, ESPN).

“Webber brings it into the frontcourt … they have no timeouts remaining … Oh! He calls it, too many timeouts! That’s a technical foul! He called a timeout, and Michigan doesn’t have any!”

If you are not of a certain age — no one playing Wednesday night in the Dean Dome will be — here’s what happened, recalled by those were on the floor. Well, all but one of them.

Michigan’s Fab Five, that rarest of legends that manages to reach a status of timelessness during its actual time, was playing in its second consecutive national title game, having been throttled by Duke one year earlier. The most ballyhooed all-at-once recruiting class in college hoops history had delivered plenty in its two years together, via a mixture of winning, hip-hop and — oh man — those long, baggy shorts. They had blasted through the 1992-93 season, including an early win over North Carolina in Hawaii. They were on the verge of delivering the one promise that had eluded them: a championship of any kind.

The perfect contrast to Michigan, North Carolina was the oldest of old-school programs. Dean Smith was at the height of his powers, with a core group of players who went to the Final Four two years earlier. But they had spent the 1992-93 season in the shadow of their archenemies — yes, Duke. Carolina wasn’t Fab Five. It was Four Corners, crew cuts, blue belts and all.

These two teams spent their Monday night in the Superdome trading blows. Michigan had an early 10-point lead, but that vanished by halftime. Carolina had its typical early-second-half run, but that also was countered, primarily by way of the 23 points posted by the Fab Five’s leader, Chris Webber.

“There were two guys who had their way all night, and that was Donald Williams and Chris Webber,” Eric Montross, the UNC center, recalled of his teammate, who had 25 points. Montross was no slouch himself, with 16 points in the middle. “You kind of knew it might come down to one of those two making the play that iced the game.”

Sure did — just not the way anyone could have foreseen.

Chris Webber called the timeout Michigan did not have. Twenty-five years later, it’s a moment no one can forget. AP Photo/Bill Haber

After UNC’s Pat Sullivan missed the back end of a one-and-one, Webber hauled in his 11th rebound of the night with 20 seconds remaining and the Wolverines trailing 73-71. This is the part when you think we’re going to jet the length of the floor and into the corner in front of the Michigan bench. Don’t worry, we’ll get there. Just not yet. A lot happened before then — stuff that is forgotten now.

“Everyone on our team knows the play at this point, and Coach [Steve] Fisher had drawn it up again during our last timeout, with about two minutes remaining,” recalled Jalen Rose, the guard and mouthpiece of the Fab Five who now uses that mouth for ESPN. “Chris is going to get the rebound off a miss, outlet to me, I’ll take it up, try to get a 3-pointer off a pick-and-roll. If they bottle that up, then I swing it to Chris to take a shot. If his man shows, then he can to swing it to Jimmy King or Rob Pelinka in the corners. That’s our play.”

Instead, as both teams evacuated the floor under the basket and headed up the court, Webber all at once smothered the ball, started to call a timeout, then looked up to see what teammates were around. He spotted Rose but found UNC defender George Lynch in his face. He decided to take it up the floor himself.

Then Webber walked. Everyone in the Superdome saw it, especially the Tar Heels bench Webber was in front of, which erupted incredulously. Everyone saw it, it seemed, except the official who was trailing the play and had perhaps the best view of all. He called nothing, and Webber picked up speed, crossing midcourt.

“If we’d called the walk, then everything else disappears,” former NCAA basketball official Tom Harrington conceded in a 2014 conversation.

The seven-time Final Four veteran was in position along the baseline beneath Michigan’s basket when Webber dragged his foot. Harrington recalled seeing the UNC bench’s reaction, hearing the screams from the crowd and thinking, “Oh no, what’d we miss?” His crewmate Jim Stupin was the official who didn’t make the call. “North Carolina gets the ball right there, up two.” Harrington said. “But it’s still just a two-point game. The truth is, we didn’t even know about it until we were in the locker room after the game.”

That’s where Hank Nichols, then-NCAA supervisor of officials, informed them of the miss and said, “You guys did a great job, but you have to be lucky sometimes. If Michigan had won that game, everyone tonight wouldn’t be talking the teams. They’d be talking about us.”

Michigan did not. And no one was talking about any mistakes from the officials. Instead, everyone was talking about a call the officials were forced to make.

Webber seized his second life and headed toward his half of the floor. Lynch was joined by teammate Derrick Phelps, forming a double-team that pushed the All-American to the right Read More…

Via:: NDTV – Sports

      

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