Correction: The ACC will not comment publicly on the incident at this time. That doesn’t mean no action (but it could).
Frank Howard played the best basketball of his sporadic senior season, finally recapturing the scoring fire of last year. He largely went shot-for-shot with Zion Williamson to keep the Syracuse Orange in the game against Duke — 11-for-20 with 28 points. But the story nationally after the game, if you fell asleep early, was not the points.
ESPN’s Jay Williams drew attention toward an incident that occurred between Howard and Williamson with 12 minutes remaining in the first half. Howard stuck his foot out to his right as Williamson jogged by following a massive one-handed slam. Williamson, hit his foot, stumbled and regained his balance quickly while Howard stuck out his right arm in a apparent attempt to help. Williams admonished Howard for the action, saying that Howard should have been ejected.
Howard did not even receive a standard foul for the move. On Friday, the ACC confirmed to Syracuse.com that it is not reprimanding or suspending Howard for the incident.
“If you said I’m trying to trip him, I don’t get it,” Howard said in a press conference after the game. He said that he was shown the video shortly before the presser.
“I saw the play. I realized I tripped him and I tried to give him a little hand. At the same time, I’m in the heat of the game with a very tough defender on me. I was trying to get open, get the ball, get the ball out fast. That’s all I remember of the play. I just saw the video really quick. But he’s a hell of an athlete, hell of a player, I have a lot of respect for him. I’m not gonna wait four years to get to this stage to start tripping people.”
As Jim Boeheim, Elijah Hughes and Howard exited following the game, Boeheim quipped “it’s a joke” in reference to what was made of the incident in part by Williams, the Duke-player-turned-ESPN-analyst.
Williams said on the halftime broadcast that “Frank Howard extends his foot, and tries to trip Zion. Now look, I understand that Zion Williamson’s playing a a great game. There is no place in the game for stuff like this. I said the same thing when the Grayson Allen stuff happened a couple of years ago.”
The quote brought up an old TMZ video of Williams, saying that there was a tendency to overreact to incidents that Allen (who went to Duke just like Williams) was involved in and he was fine with him playing the villain and tripping players.
For what it’s worth, Williamson said that he didn’t notice the alleged trip attempt.
With the situation behind both Howard and Williamson, and now the ACC as well, the flurry of national headlines and debate that followed will likely disappear upon tip-off of UNC-Duke tonight. Williams fanned the flames on a play where, as Boeheim says it, there was nothing there.