Rhode Island tripped on its chances to advance to the NIT championship game on Tuesday night. But then again, North Carolina -- who will instead play Dayton on Thursday -- gave it some help.
After Tar Heel point guard Larry Drew II missed a shot in the closing seconds of overtime at Madison Square Garden, the ball got tipped out, and briefly ended up in the grasp of Rhode Island's LaMonte Ulmer. UNC's Will Graves, diving for the loose ball, ended up inadvertently tripping Ulmer -- who coughed up the ball into the the grasp of Drew. Final score: UNC 68, Rhode Island 67.
"I feel badly; [Rhode Island coach] Jim Baron is one of the good guys," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "I mean, he really is, and something should be probably have been called there at the end. I don't know what it was going to be. I don't know if our guy tripped over somebody else, but it looked weird and I feel badly that the game ended like that, but we should not have been in that situation where we were that close to fouling a guy."
Graves, who finished with 14 points, wasn't intentionally trying to trip Ulmer. "I was just trying to get to it [the ball] any way possible, and not let them get another shot off," he said. "I tried to dive on the floor for the ball when it was rolling, do whatever any Carolina player would do."
Asked if there was any contact with the Rhode Island player when he was diving on the floor, Graves said: "no comment."
Baron, like Williams, clearly saw some contact, though.
"We got the rebound and we were aiming to push it down the other end," he said. "I thought there was some contact and he tripped and I thought that -- he looked like he clearly tripped running up the court.'"
ANOTHER DREW ENDING: Drew -- who converted a game-winning drive at Mississippi State in the second round, then had another game-sealing layup at UAB in the quarterfinals -- missed that final shot in overtime. But he made the final five points in regulation to force overtime.
"You know, I feel those are the kind of situations I was bred for and one of the reasons why I came here," he said. "I feel like I have the confidence to make the plays down in the stretch that we need to make. I'm glad to have the ball in my hands in those situations."
BRIEFLY: Rhode Island had been allowing foes to shoot 46.9 percent this season -- 318th in the nation. UNC shot 34.9 percent.
The Tar Heels are now 1-13 this season when shooting worse than 40 percent.