Utah State alley-oop turned 3-pointer triggers rulebook confusion

·3-min read

Utah State's Max Shulga may be the only basketball player to have a half-court shot counted as two points, however briefly. 

Shulga's half-court heave turned into a bizarre rulebook controversy on Tuesday during a game against Portland State, all thanks to a question of his intent with the shot. As you can see, Shulga seemed to be throwing up an alley-oop for teammate Brandon Horvath, only for the ball to go in:

Per Utah State radio staffer Ajay Salvesen, the officials told Aggies athletic director Kyle Cottam the shot was counted as a 2-pointer because Shulga was attempting a pass, not a field goal. The officials changed their tune after halftime, however, telling Utah State head coach Ryan Odom the field goal would count for three points.

The controversy thankfully didn't affect the outcome of the game — Utah State won 81-62 — but it's incredible to see something as simple as how many points a half-court shot counts for became a point of confusion.

What the Utah State officials might have been thinking

It may be giving the officials too much credit to do a deep analysis of the rulebook to identify their source of the mixup, but if there is an actual reason to even consider counting a half-court shot as two points, it's probably in Rule 5, Section 1 of the NCAA's men's basketball rulebook.

Here are the relevant articles, as one fan pointed out. The first is the definition of a "try":

Art. 1. A try for field goal is an attempt by a player to score two or three points by throwing or tapping the ball into his basket. 

And then there's the definition of a 3-pointer and how it's scored:

Art. 4. A successful try from beyond the three-point line shall count three points for the team when the ball is thrown or directed into its basket.

a. When a player scores a field goal in the opponent’s basket, it shall count two points for the opponent regardless of the location on the playing court from where it was released. Such a field goal shall not be credited to a player in the scorebook but shall be indicated with a footnote.

Art. 5. A three-point try occurs when a try leaves the player’s hand when that player last touched the floor outside the three-point line with at least one foot in contact with the playing floor behind the line and the other foot not contacting the line or the playing floor in front of that line.

So, if you were to squint really hard, you could interpret Shulga clearly trying to throw up an alley-oop as not a real "try." Of course, that is some abstract rulebook reading that would make Formula 1 proud, so it's probably for the best that the precedent was set here to count a ball from behind the 3-point line as a 3-pointer.

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