SEC ref explains photo of himself posing with LSU T-shirt

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LSU guard Ja’vonte Smart (1) is congratulated by forward Naz Reid (0) after No. 13 LSU defeated No. 5 Tennessee 82-80 in overtime during an NCAA college basketball game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (David Grunfeld/The Times-Picayune via AP)

Southeastern Conference referee Anthony Jordan has told the league he didn’t mean to show favoritism toward any particular school when he posed for a picture holding an LSU T-shirt five years ago while traveling abroad.

The photograph circulated on social media among disgruntled Tennessee fans after LSU beat the Volunteers 82-80 on a pair of free throws following a decisive foul call with six-tenths of a second remaining in overtime on Saturday. Jordan was a referee in that game.

“Jordan has officiated at a high level in the SEC for 19 years, including 11 assignments in NCAA postseason tournaments,” the SEC said Monday in a statement. “We do not find this social media post to be acceptable with our expectations and will proceed accordingly, while also acknowledging Mr. Jordan has a lengthy track record as a fair and impartial basketball official.”

The SEC said in its statement that Jordan intended “to make a light-hearted social media post about having seen the T-shirt in another country and not to express affinity for a particular school.” Jordan posed for the picture while visiting Spain.

The SEC has a conflict-of-interest policy that prevents referees from working games involving schools they attended or schools that employ or enroll their immediate family members, among other things.

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said he had contacted the SEC office “a couple different times” since the LSU game “about everything that has happened.”

“They understand the situation,” Barnes said Monday before the SEC issued its statement. “They are as upset about it as we would be. The fact is, they will handle it. We have to get ready to play another game.”

The loss dropped No. 7 Tennessee (24-3, 12-2 SEC) into a three-way tie for first place with No. 4 Kentucky (23-4, 12-2) and No. 13 LSU (22-5, 12-2). Tennessee plays at Mississippi (19-8, 9-5) on Wednesday.

After earning 19 consecutive victories and holding the No. 1 ranking for nearly a month, Tennessee has lost two of its last three games.

Saturday’s game at LSU was tied in the final seconds of overtime when Tennessee’s Lamonte’ Turner missed a 3-point attempt. LSU’s Javonte Smart got the rebound and collided with Tennessee’s Grant Williams near the free-throw line.

Williams was called for a foul, enabling Smart to go all the way to the opposite free-throw line to make the game-winning foul shots.

Those shots capped a game that featured plenty of stoppages in play as officials went to the replay monitor.

LSU ended up going 24 of 31 from the foul line, while Tennessee was 12 of 16. LSU coach Will Wade could be seen complaining to officials in the closing seconds of regulation, apparently over the lack of a foul call after LSU’s Skylar Mays missed a potential go-ahead jumper.

“I’ve got confidence in our officials in our league here,” Barnes said Monday. “Are they perfect? They’re not. Are some better than others? They are. Can some handle different environments better than others? They absolutely can. But it’s no different than players. I can say the same thing about players, and you can talk about coaches probably. The fact of the matter is we’ve got to keep our eyes focused on what we have to do as a team and how we can get better.”

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Follow Steve Megargee at https://twitter.com/stevemegargee

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