Duke coach Kara Lawson said the teams played with a men’s basketball for the first half of a loss to Florida State on Sunday.
The 16th-ranked Blue Devils lost to the Seminoles 70-57 in Tallahassee, Florida — the team’s second Atlantic Coast Conference loss of the season.
After her team beat Pittsburgh 53-44 on Thursday, Lawson ended her news conference by speaking animatedly about Sunday’s game.
“This would never happen in a men’s game. This would never happen,” she said. “It’s embarrassing for our sport.”
The circumference of a women’s ball is about an inch smaller than a men’s ball, and it is typically 2 ounces lighter. While it might not seem like a lot, that’s a big difference.
Lawson said that throughout the first half, Duke players were “complaining about the ball.” The Blue Devils were 7-for-34 from the field in the opening 20 minutes of that game. They were 12-for-38 in the second half. Florida State made 10 of its 30 shots in the first two quarters and 14 of 31 in the second half.
“To have a game that, at the end of the season, could be the difference between a seed, between a title, my players don’t deserve that and neither do their players,” Lawson said. “It’s a complete failure. And you can figure out who the people I’m talking about that failed the sport and our players and both teams.”
Lawson said assistant coach Winston Gandy went to the scorer’s table at halftime to check on the ball when he realized what the problem was. She said the game officials changed the ball to start the second half.
“We have concluded through our investigation that it was a men’s ball,” Lawson said. “The conference and Florida State is saying that it wasn’t.”
Lawson said she wanted to appeal the game but the conference wouldn’t let her.
“Let me be clear: Florida State beat us,” Lawson said. “They beat us playing with a men’s ball in the first half and a women’s ball in the second half. But I can’t say if we’d have played with a women’s ball in the first half and the second half that we would have won. But they can’t say that, either.”
Lawson said the ACC has instituted a rule change under which players have to confirm the correct ball during the captains’ meeting before tipoff.
“It’s very frustrating that [the game] … was not treated with the utmost respect that players on both teams deserve,” she said.
This wasn’t the first time this has happened in women’s basketball. In 2017, the College of Charleston played home games and practiced with men’s balls for most of its season until the error was discovered.