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Controversial foul call mars end of UConn vs. Iowa Final Four game

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(Editor’s note: Officiating in college women’s basketball has been under heavy scrutiny. Here’s what frustrates coaches and administrators and what they say can improve the quality of officials calling games.)

Well, it wouldn’t be the women’s NCAA Tournament if there wasn’t some controversy.

Iowa beat UConn in the second national semifinal Friday night, but the buzz after the game wasn’t on Caitlin Clark or the championship matchup Sunday with undefeated South Carolina.

It was on a foul call. And this time, it wasn’t about the lack of a whistle.

Aaliyah Edwards was called for an offensive foul while trying to set a screen on Gabbie Marshall with less than four seconds remaining.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma showed his extreme frustration.

ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt and Andraya Carter didn’t agree with the call, either.

“I hated the call. You’ve got to give Gabbie Marshall credit for trying to fight over the screen. That’s what drew the refs’ attention in,” Carter said on “SportsCenter” after the game. “But to me, now that final play it’s not about Iowa defense. It’s about the call the referee made. There was a slight lean, maybe Aaliyah Edwards’ elbow was slightly out. But to be honest the calls were even for both sides. There were missed calls for Iowa. There were missed contact for UConn. To make that call at the very end of the game – to me it took away the opportunity for players to make plays. … To be honest, that call sucked.”

MORE: Where’s accountability, transparency in women’s officiating? Coaches want to know

Obviously, thoughts were divided during the post-game news conferences and in the locker rooms.

Edwards said she thought the play was “clean.”

Paige Bueckers took a broader approach to what transpired in the final four seconds.

“Players play. Players decide the game.

“Everybody can make a big deal out of one single play but one single play doesn’t win or lose a basketball game,” Bueckers said. “… You can look at one play and say oh that killed us or that hurt us. We should have done a better job, I should have done better job making sure didn’t leave the game up to that.”

Iowa’s Hannah Stuelke praised Marshall, who is among the nation’s top defenders. “Gabbie is great in those situations. She always comes up with big plays, a block or whatever.”

Marshall told USA TODAY Sports in the locker room that she could feel the elbow. “There’s video of it.” She added she remembered three or four of those calls Friday night.

The officiating during this tournament has come under the spotlight before.

Hannah Hidalgo sat out more than four minutes of Notre Dame’s Sweet 16 game to remove her nose ring. This after officials told her before the game she could cover it instead of removing it. Hidalgo said she had played with the piercing all season. She called it “BS” and said it disrupted her game.

And in a second-round game in Raleigh, North Carolina, an official was replaced at halftime when it was discovered she had received a degree from one of the schools playing, but didn’t disclose it before tip-off.

Lindsay Schnell and Nancy Armour reported from Cleveland

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