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Kansas men’s basketball advances after controversial call hinders Samford upset: ‘An incredible play’

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The Kansas Jayhawks avoided an early upset in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Thursday night, thanks to a controversial call in the final minute of their first-round match-up against Samford. 

The 13th-seeded Bulldogs managed to cut a 22-point deficit to just one with 14 seconds remaining when Samford’s A.J. Staton-McCray says he pulled off a “great play” in blocking Nicolas Timberlake’s shot from beneath the basket. 

The Samford Bulldogs’ A.J. Staton-McCray, left, is called for a foul on Nicolas Timberlake of the Kansas Jayhawks with 14 seconds left during the second half of their game in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Officials called it a foul, which would set up two key free throws by Timberlake for a 93-89 victory. 

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“I have seen the play,” Samford coach Bucky McMillan said in his post-game presser.

“I thought A.J. made an incredible play on it, you know what I’m saying? I’m not faulting the call. Some people can see it different ways. But I was really proud of our guys’ ability to go make a play.”

On social media, however, there were several fans who saw it differently.

Jaden Campbell celebrates

Jaden Campbell of the Samford Bulldogs celebrates a three-point basket against the Kansas Jayhawks during the second half of their game in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday.  (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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“Ban that ref crew for robbing Samford,” one person said in response to the NCAA’s post on X showing the slow-motion replay. 

“Terrible call Kansas bailed out by refs once again,” another responded. 

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Timberlake was adamant in his post-game presser that he was “definitely fouled” on the play. Kansas coach Bill Self seemingly avoided giving his take when asked about the call, and instead praised Timberlake’s play. 

“I thought Nic attacked the basket well,” he said. “He’s a much better athlete than what a lot of people think. He attacked it strong, just like he should.”

Kansas players celebrate

Elmarko Jackson and Dajuan Harris Jr. of the Kansas Jayhawks celebrate against the Samford Bulldogs during the second half of their game in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The fourth-seeded Jayhawks will next take on No. 5 seed Gonzaga on Saturday at 3:15 p.m. ET.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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