NEW YORK -- The Atlantic 10 Conference introduced itself to Brooklyn on Thursday by producing one of the more ridiculous endings to a college basketball game in recent memory.
The very first game of the conference's very first tournament at Barclays Center ended with three technical fouls and an ejection in the final 4.7 seconds as Charlotte pulled off an improbable 68-63 victory over Richmond, which had led by three points with less than five seconds left.
"You couldn't make that up if you wanted to make a movie out of that one," Charlotte coach Alan Major said.
Richmond coach Chris Mooney tossed his jacket. Charlotte guard Pierria Henry attempted 11 straight free throws. And an intimate crowd at this cavernous arena was treated to a finish both bizarre and sublime. It was, in other words, an ideal start for the Atlantic 10.
Controversy sells, especially in New York, and as the conference made its Brooklyn debut a mere MetroCard swipe away from the valedictory Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden, any buzz would do in this basketball-sated city.
"You could certainly call New York the center of the college basketball world this week," said John Giannini, coach of fourth-seeded La Salle.
The noon game between eighth-seeded Richmond and ninth-seeded Charlotte was the province of the hard-core fan, or at least a few hundred of them. Yet the conference had never seen anything quite like it: a relatively innocuous
Mooney opted to have his team foul Henry, the Charlotte guard, to prevent him from getting a look at a potentially game-tying 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds left. After Henry sank his first free-throw attempt, Richmond's Derrick Williams shoved Charlotte's Willie Clayton, with whom he had been battling for rebounding position. Williams was whistled for a technical foul -- a momentous call considering the time and score.
Reggie Greenwood, the Atlantic 10's coordinator of officials, said that because the violation occurred on a dead-ball situation, Charlotte was awarded an additional two shots plus possession.
"Basketball's a hard game," Mooney said. "It's very physical. There's a lot of positioning and things that happen during the course of the game, and you kind of have to make sure to recognize the time and score of the game so that you don't have anything like that happen."
Henry sank all three free throws to give Charlotte a 64-63 lead, and Richmond was forced to foul.
That plan quickly went awry. Richmond's Cedrick Lindsay tried to grab Henry on the inbounds pass, but there was no call. Instead, Henry took two dribbles and drew a foul on Richmond's Greg Robbins as he heaved up a shot from near midcourt with 2.8 seconds left.
At that point, Mooney lost it. He ripped off his jacket and stomped to midcourt. Lindsay pushed him back to the Richmond bench, but it was too late. Mooney was called for a pair of technicals and ejected.
After the officials added it all up, Henry made his way to the line for seven -- yes, seven -- free throws. Henry said it felt as if he was at the line for "30 minutes." He made four of them.
Mooney said he was upset because he thought Lindsay had fouled Robbins immediately.
"I was upset, and probably too upset," he said, adding, "It's a pretty devastating way to lose the game, and I feel bad for our players and for our fans because I really thought we had put ourselves in position to win the game."