First, please forgive me for badly mangling the well-known quote: “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Though the post concerns statistics, it’s basically:

1) an excuse for me to complain about shoddy Associated Press fact checking…and sports writing

2) a chance to use my complaint as an (admittedly pretty self-serving)  illustration of why information literacy (not to mention critical thinking skills and a healthy distrust of the media) are so important.

 No, I’m not saying that people live and die because of the reporting of the Big 12 regular season championship. It just happens to be an example of, at best, shoddy reporting and fact checking, and at worst, blatant revisionst history, that got me pretty fired up.

Full disclosure: in case you couldn’t tell, I’m a pretty big Jayhawk fan, and I was at the game (and it was an amazing game). But I digress… 

 This is my recap of the game, which I’ve checked against the (hopefully accurate) play-by-play stats listed on espn.com’s website:

 This Saturday, the University of Kansas Jayhawks’ mens basketball team went up against the Texas Longhorns for the Big 12 regular season championship. The Longhorns’ much-vaunted freshman class, with standouts D.J. Augustin and likely Big 12 Player of the Year Kevin Durant, had just come off of a double overtime victory over Texas A&M and looked hungry to get a piece of the Big 12 regular season championship.  The Longhorns played an amazing first half, scoring 11-14 of their three pointers, had a 57% field goal percentage, and led at one point by 16 points (51-35). Durant had 20 points in the first 10 minutes alone.  KU stayed in the game, playing decently, but were down by 12 points at halftime.

 At the beginning of the second half, KU turned things around, and the Longhorns’ shooting cooled down. At the 16:08 mark in the 2nd half, a two point jumper by Julian Wright pulled KU ahead, 58-59. With KU ahead, 65-69, with approximately 11 minutes left in the 2nd half, Durant turned an ankle and left the game, reappearing four minutes later, still hobbling a bit and scoring only 5 more points. KU won the game, after a few more close calls (and some horrible free-throw shooting) 90-86.

 Why am I giving you so much narrative, you ask? It’s because the AP story reporting on the game (which both espn.com and si.com have posted as a game recap) would lead you to believe that the 24-7 run that put KU in the lead did not occur until after Durant left the game.

The story implies that KU’s win was due primarily to Durant’s injury, even though the lead change and 24-7 run came while Durant was still in the game… a full 5 minutes before his injury.

Basically, it makes it sound like the Jayhawks didn’t win this game fair and square, and it doesn’t give them credit for taking on Durant and the Longhorns and coming out victorious.

Obviously, my opinion is completely biased, and I don’t want to put too fine a point on this; it’s not as though the world hinges on college basketball wins and losses.  I do, however, think it’s a fantastic example of the axiom “Don’t believe everything you read.”

Added at5:03 CDT:

Since I posted, espn.com has updated the offending line quoted above to read: “Kansas put together a 24-7 run to win the game, taking a 59-58 lead on Wright’s basket.”

Si.com’s story, however, remains the same.

 Added at 8:45 CDT: The Associated Press has issued a correction. Hallelujah. Si.com, however, is still incorrect.

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