Piscataway, N.J. – At 22 years old, Kenny Goins already wears progressive lenses. So, it’s not like he’s been blessed with the best eyesight.
But the fifth-year senior, who wears contacts when he plays basketball, was at an even greater disadvantage late in No. 9 Michigan State’s overtime loss to Louisville on Tuesday night.
He could only see clearly out of his right eye.
With the game tied at 67 with 13.3 seconds to play in regulation, Goins grabbed the rebound of a missed Louisville free throw and was hit in the eye by the Cardinals’ Malik Williams. A foul was called, meaning Goins was to head to the free-throw line for a one-and-one attempt.
But with blood in his eye from the cut he’d just received, he couldn’t see.
“I couldn't really see stepping up to the line,” Goins explained. “I don't want to sound like I was trying to get out of it, but I knew that I couldn't see to shoot it and I was telling them, ‘I’m bleeding, I still can’t see,’ and they came up to me and said I had to shoot.”
Goins, not surprisingly, missed the first free throw and the game headed to overtime after Louisville failed to score on its final possession.
Of course, the real question afterward was why Goins was forced to shoot even though he was injured. NCAA rules state that when an injured player is unable to attempt a free throw, the opposing team’s coach can select who will shoot from the four remaining players on the court. If he is injured from a flagrant foul, that player’s coach can select any player on the team to shoot the free throws.
Of course, no flagrant foul was called, meaning if Goins didn’t shoot, Louisville coach Chris Mack would have chosen from the players on the floor, most likely Nick Ward, who is shooting 62 percent from the line.
It appears, however, there was no opportunity for Goins to come out of the game.
“I talked to Teddy Valentine for a little bit at the free-throw line then he went over and talked to the other ref,” Goins said. “I don’t know what was said. Before that they came over and said I have to shoot and then right after they said, ‘All right, step up to the line now.’ There’s nothing you can really say at that point.
“I went up to the line and tried to keep it straight and tried my best.”
Valentine, a long time official of Big Ten games until this season, and Jamie Luckie were the two officials looking at Goins’ eye. Luckie had already drawn coach Tom Izzo’s ire earlier in the half when he called a Louisville foul on a breakaway but didn’t award Michigan State free throws.
He didn’t bother to tell Izzo why, and he had no interest in explaining the decision to force Goins to shoot, either.
“I mean, the guy had blood in his eye,” Izzo said. “I did not understand that. And as I was trying to ask the question, I wasn't responded to in a very polite manner, so I decided at that time of the game I wouldn't push my luck.”
In Friday night’s Big Ten opener at Rutgers, Goins wore a pair of protective glasses.
“The depth perception was an adjustment,” said Goins, who grabbed a team-high nine rebounds in MSU’s 78-67 win. “I don’t think I’ll have them for that long, just until my eye heals, which won’t be that long.
“It’s just the cut then the blood blister on the inside. They don’t want me to hit it again because it can be much worse than it is.”