Markell Johnson did everything right.
Down four, NC State’s sophomore guard raced up the floor, blew by the Boston College defense and finished at the rim to cut the Wolfpack’s deficit in half, 89-87.
Then, hoping to set up a press, he took a timeout. The only problem? NC State had no timeouts — it had used its final timeout just seconds earlier — earning Johnson a technical foul. BC’s Jerome Robinson stepped to the line on the other end and knocked down two free throws, giving the Eagles their second win in as many days and unceremoniously dumping NC State from the second round of the ACC tournament.
To make matters worse, 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the most infamous phantom timeout in basketball history: Michigan’s Chris Webber attempting to call timeout down two against North Carolina in the 1993 NCAA Championship game.
Johnson’s mistake punctuated a wild final minute of the game. After Robinson hit a jumper to give Boston College a two-point lead with 21 seconds left, NC State took its final timeout. But Boston College’s Ky Bowman stole the inbounds pass and knocked down a pair of free throws with 12 seconds remaining. That set the stage for Johnson’s layup and ensuing ill-fated timeout attempt. Though the Wolfpack would have still been long shots to win had Johnson not tried to take the timeout (down two with BC inbounding with seven seconds left), the technical foul doomed them to a quick exit from the conference tournament.
Here’s what Johnson had to say after the game:
Markell on accidentally calling timeout pic.twitter.com/enqeRs4AJC
— Mark Armstrong (@ArmstrongABC11) March 7, 2018
Though it’s a bitter way for NC State to be bounced from Brooklyn, the ramifications for Johnson’s timeout won’t be nearly as severe as those for Webber’s were. According to nearly all projections, the Wolfpack are still safely into the NCAA tournament at 21-11 overall and 11-7 in the ACC in Kevin Keatts’ first year at the helm. In fact, NC State has been one of the best turnarounds in all of college basketball this year after going 15-17 (4-14 in the ACC) last year. Johnson’s last-minute mistake might knock the Wolfpack down a seed or two, but it doesn’t change the season’s narrative.
Boston College moves on to face Clemson on Thursday at 2 p.m. ET.