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Team USA’s buzzer beater against Belgium shouldn’t have happened

Kelsey Plum had her foot on the line in a key possession toward the end of last night’s USA vs. Belgium game.

BASKETBALL-FIBA-WOMEN-BEL-USA Photo by DIRK WAEM/Belga/AFP via Getty Images

The USA Basketball women’s national team defeated Belgium 81-79 yesterday in Antwerp. I wrote about the game, focusing mostly on Belgium and Washington Mystics training camp signee Julie Vanloo as opposed to the general narrative of the game, and the buzzer beater New York Liberty forward Breanna Stewart made.

You can watch the play in the video below.

It’s awesome for Team USA that Stewie saved the day during a night where the Belgian Cats clearly had the upper hand in the backcourt. Stopping former WNBA player Emma Meesseman from scoring and forcing her to be “passive Emma” is a good strategy, so if the Americans lost last night, we can just tip our hat to Vanloo and Maxuelle Lisowa Mbaka, the guards who made Team USA pay until the end.

But if you watch that video, courtside fans were calling out Team USA and Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum for going out of bounds as that possession was happening. And if you want proof of that, here it is! In a coincidence, Vanloo was defending Plum on that possession too.

Note that the snapshot is of a Sporza piece on that play. The link is in Dutch. We’ll get to it later.

So, why did the play stand?

Ultimately, it’s due to a technicality in calling or not calling out of bounds plays.

In the Sporza site we linked above, Johnny Jacobs an officiating instructor from Basketbal Vlaanderen (That is “Flanders Basketball” in Dutch) said that in FIBA competition, if there is no whistle to call someone for being out, then it cannot be challenged. So even if the refs noticed that Plum was out of bounds while reviewing the subsequent Stewart shot, there was nothing they could do.

At the end of the day, do I think this play was a make-or-break situation for the Belgian Cats and/or Team USA? Yes and no. I do think that Plum should have been called out for being out of bounds. Assuming that happened, it’s likely that the game would have been stretched into overtime.

But I don’t think the Cats would have come out ahead given that the Americans had all the momentum toward the end of regulation. And to be honest, I think the Cats should have put Team USA away in the fourth quarter. While Meesseman was taken out of the game as a scorer, if she somehow, someway got a bucket or two more in the fourth quarter, perhaps I would have been writing about Belgium’s biggest win in national history and eaten crow for it.

Instead, all I can say is that the Cats have to find some way to make Meesseman a more effective scorer against a team like Team USA, even as all of their players know what she is capable of doing.