Florida Atlantic center Vlad Goldin was expecting to bump fists or shake hands with Kansas State forward Nae’Qwan Tomlin before the start of their Elite Eight game on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, but the greeting never happened.
Goldin ran to midcourt during starting lineups and held his hand out as Tomlin was being introduced to the crowd.
At the NCAA Tournament, players from both teams are announced in alternating fashion and it is customary for them to acknowledge each other in some way when they run to the middle of the floor and greet the game officials.
But Tomlin was in no mood for that and walked right past Goldin like he wasn’t even there. It’s possible Tomlin didn’t see him, but that seems unlikely given that Goldin is a 7-foot-1 big man.
In any case, Goldin was not amused. A confused look flashed across his face. Then he turned to his teammates and shrugged with his arms out wide.
“I was surprised,” Goldin said after the game, “because there was no sportsmanship.”
Tomlin was not asked about the exchange following the game, because he did not make himself available for questions when reporters were allowed inside K-State’s locker room.
In any case, there is a chance that helped fuel Goldin to an impressive performance during a 79-76 victory over the Wildcats. The towering basketball player from Nalchick, Russia, created all kinds of problems for the Wildcats on his way to 14 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks.
Goldin also expressed emotion after several of those big plays, including standing over Markquis Nowell after he blocked one of his shots late in the first half — although he later praised Nowell as “one of the quickest guards I have ever played against.”
Overall, the Owls grabbed 44 rebounds and limited the Wildcats to 22.
“Rebounding has been an issue for us all year,” K-State basketball coach Jerome Tang said. “We tried to make it tough for them. We tried to front them. They did a great job of lobbing it over to him. He did a good job of scoring some buckets.”
Goldin’s presence on defense also made the Wildcats adjust the way they attacked the basket.
The Owls didn’t have to use many help defenders against Nowell, because they had a rim protector on the inside.
Question is: Did he play so well in part because he was motivated by the handshake snub?
“He didn’t want to shake my hand and I’m fine with that,” Goldin said. “I wasn’t offended by it. It didn’t give me extra motivation or leave me with regrets. But I was surprised. It made me go, ‘Hmmm, well OK.’”
Florida Atlantic will next play San Diego State in the Final Four next Saturday. The opposing team’s five man might want to consider shaking his hand pregame.