A sellout crowd came to the Garden to watch the semifinals of the Big East’s showcase event. Instead, it watched the worst the league has to offer.
For a conference that kicked off its season opener by blowing an inadvertent whistle in the final seconds of a battle between St. John’s and Seton Hall, the Big East officials appropriately added a final controversial chapter to their much-maligned campaign in the Pirates’ 81-79 win over Marquette.
Three players were ejected. Six technical fouls were called on Seton Hall. Three were handed to Marquette. Monitor delays stretched more than 10 minutes. A total of 57 fouls were called, a total of 85 free throws attempted.
“I’ve never had anything like that happen in a basketball game before. It’s unexplainable,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said.
“Just so many unusual things happened. I don’t know if I want to get into specifics. It was the most unusual basketball game I’ve ever been a part of, and I feel bad for my kids. They’re in there, and they’re sobbing. I wish our kids would have had a chance to decide the game, and their kids, too.”
The biggest black mark of a hard-fought game came with 12:18 remaining in the second half and Marquette leading by three. After Myles Powell was fouled on a drive, a brief skirmish broke out, though no punches were thrown.
Still, a total of three starters from the two teams — Seton Hall’s Sandro Mamukelashvili, and Marquette’s Sacar Amin and Theo John — were ejected. John was booted for what was deemed “severe contact.” Mamukelashvili was assessed a technical, then ejected after making “unsporting contact … deemed severe in nature,” while Amin was thrown out with two T’s.
Powell received a technical, and believed he was tossed, too, but was brought back after an earlier flagrant foul was confused with a technical.
“I won’t say they didn’t understand, but it probably wasn’t communicated clearly to them,” lead official James Breeding said. “The Seton Hall bench thought that he had been ejected. When I saw that he went to the locker room, I went to them and said, ‘He has one technical foul, one live ball flagrant personal foul, that does not result in ejection.’
“I think it was announced incorrectly over the PA.”
Then a tightly contested game was then nearly ruined in the final minutes, with a seemingly never-ending string of questionable foul calls.
The Big East then violated tournament policy by allowing both teams to close their locker rooms after the game, making players unavailable.
“I would just say that the fouls that were called are fouls we’ve called all year throughout the season,” Breeding said.
Perhaps that’s the problem.