Why Jerome Tang didn’t mind getting a technical foul during Kansas State’s loss at KU

Rich Sugg/rsugg@kcstar.com

Jerome Tang isn’t normally the type of coach who goes out of his way to argue with officials so passionately that he gets hit with a technical foul, but he couldn’t help himself during Kansas State’s 90-78 loss against KU on Tuesday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Midway through the first half, with KU threatening to pull away and few calls going K-State’s way, Tang stomped toward Big 12 official John Higgins on the sideline and angrily let him know what he thought of his most recent foul call against Wildcats forward Ismael Massoud.

Tang remembers screaming the word “no” and pumping his fist for emphasis. Higgins took one look at the K-State coach and formed a “T” with his hands, signaling that Tang had been assessed with a technical.

Some could argue Tang was putting on a show and hoping for exactly that to happen as a way to fire up his team. And Tang would not disagree.

“I didn’t want to get a technical there,” Tang said. “I didn’t mind getting the technical, though. I’ve been in here too many times where I feel like the crowd impacts the referees, and they’re human beings. This is no knock on them, because we shot more free throws than they shot. We made more free throws than they did. But it’s when you shoot the free throws that matter.

“So I just wanted them to know that I did not feel like the calls were being even on both ends.”

Tang continued: “Now, I think John gave me the (technical) and he wanted to let me know, ‘Bro, I will kick you out of this game if you keep acting like that.’ So he got his point across and I hope I got a little bit of my point across.”

In hindsight, Tang said he could avoided the technical by not pumping his fist at Higgins. Had he crossed his arms instead, no foul probably would have been assessed.

But that is not his style.

No matter. The technical foul seemed to work out in K-State’s favor, even though the Jayhawks went on to win by double digits. Tang noted that no team wins a game in Allen Fieldhouse in the first half, but plenty of teams lose. That didn’t occur.

Here is a rundown of exactly what happened.

The calls definitely felt slanted in favor of the home team early on. Shortly after Massoud was whistled for a foul while trying to defend KU guard DaJuan Harris, Tang went after Higgins. That meant KU could send Gradey Dick to the foul line for a pair of free throws in addition to the shots Harris was about to get.

The Jayhawks capitalized by going on a quick 6-0 run that featured three free throws and a three-pointer on a subsequent trip down court.

All of a sudden, KU was leading 22-13 and the crowd was getting loud behind the hot start.

But it was worth it. The technical seemed to send a message to K-State players that they were here to compete, despite not getting a friendly whistle in the opening minutes. Under no circumstances were they to give up.

K-State players responded accordingly, and so did the Big 12 refs. The Wildcats seemed to get better calls the rest of the half, and K-State fought back quickly with 10 straight points when the Jayhawks took a 32-19 lead and threatened to run away with the game.

In the end, both K-State and KU were whistled for 23 fouls and the Wildcats attempted more free throws (36) than the Jayhawks (35).

The Wildcats managed to keep things competitive the rest of the way. This never devolved into a blowout.

“I know the reason why he was doing it,” K-State point guard Markquis Nowell said. “He wanted to fire us up. He wasn’t really mad. I don’t think he was really mad at the ref. He was just trying to get us to play with an edge and a chip on our shoulder.”

Many other K-State teams would have faded immediately when faced with a double-digit deficit in Lawrence. There’s a reason the Wildcats have lost 17 straight in Lawrence dating back to 2005, when Jim Wooldridge was roaming the sidelines.

But this squad fought until the end. Tang’s energy on the sideline was a big reason why.

Tang made plenty of coaching errors on Tuesday, but picking up a technical wasn’t one of them.