The chairman of the NCAA tournament championship committee said yesterday that no further action will be taken against Duke center Christian Laettner for an incident during Saturday's NCAA East Regional final against Kentucky in Philadelphia.
Laettner intentionally stepped on Wildcats reserve Aminu Timberlake after being fouled with 8:06 remaining in regulation. Laettner, who received a technical foul as well as a personal foul, hit the game-winning shot at the overtime buzzer to give the defending champion Blue Devils a 104-103 victory.
"We have reviewed the videotapes of the incident and talked with the game officials and the committee's representative at the site," said tournament chairman Roy Kramer, the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. "After evaluating all the available information, it is the committee's opinion that the game officials made the proper call and penalized the offending player for his unsportsmanlike act."
Yesterday's ruling means that Laettner, Duke's leading scorer this season and the all-time leading scorer in NCAA tournament history, will be eligible to play Saturday against Indiana in the second national semifinal at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Cincinnati will play Michigan in the first semifinal, with the winners playing Monday night for the championship.
"I think it is so blown out of proportion," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "It was identified for what it was -- a contact technical. Should he have done it? No. Should people commit flagrant fouls? No. Was it flagrant? Absolutely not. It's one of those things, especially being that it's Christian, it's being blown out of proportion."
Said Laettner: "It wasn't vicious at all. I could have stepped on him really hard. I wasn't trying to hurt him."
A year ago, Laettner was involved in an incident during the pTC Midwest Regional semifinals which led to the one-game suspension of Connecticut's Rod Sellers from this year's tournament. In that instance, no technical or personal foul was assessed Sellers, who banged Laettner's head against the floor. But so much was made of the incident on national television that the committee met on it last spring and announced its decision before this year's tournament.
"It was taken care of during the game. I just wish ours was taken care of during the game," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said yesterday from Storrs, Conn., hours before a decision was reached. "I'm sure Christian feels bad about what happened. It hurt his team. It almost cost his team a chance at a national championship."