While Houston was successfully able to advance to the Sweet Sixteen, the biggest discussion from the game came with a technical foul official Brian O’Connell assessed to Illinois guard RJ Melendez.
O’Connell trailed on the end of the sideline opposite the team benches and intently watched as Melendez put down the dunk and then after a moment or two blew the whistle.
This was called a technical foul. pic.twitter.com/Fuj8kjGTXR
— Heat Check CBB (@HeatCheckCBB) March 20, 2022
Melendez was putting down a dunk with 8:40 remaining in regulation, putting Illinois down by four points, but instead of the play providing momentum towards a comeback, the play was poorly received by those in attendance at PPG Paints Arena and in real time, Reggie Miller reacted on the nationally-televised CBS contest.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I’m sorry. First of all, his momentum is taking him with him. He has to swing back. You cannot give this young man a technical foul for this. He’s not showing off or anything. If he doesn’t he is going to almost kill himself, so you’ve got to swing on the rim right here.”
Former official, Washington, Pa native and CBS rules analyst Gene Steratore agreed with Miller stating that Melendez saw his momentum carry him towards the basket and when he hung on the rim it was neither for an extended period nor unsporting.
Melendez himself was asked about the whistle and explained that he was not given an explanation.
“I don’t know what was the problem with that,” said Melendez. “I was going full speed in that transition, so I always thinking about what happened landing on the mat, on the rim, so I just try to hang on, go a bit of rhythm, come back on both feet. So I don’t know what was the tech behind the fast break, but I tried to ask the ref what was it, he didn’t want to explain to me what was the tech about.”
Illinois coach Brad Underwood defended his player, expressed disdain for the technical foul and made an interesting claim regarding O’Connell’s demeanor after the whistle.
“It’s deflating,” Underwood stated. “You make a play, it changes the momentum of the game. And have that called in the moment? I can’t wait to see it. He told me he shouldn’t ever have called it, but in the moment he calls it. Maybe it’s personal, I don’t know. When a kid has a full head of steam going 100 miles an hour, and we all talk about safety and well-being of student-athletes, come on. Then to kill momentum like that? Horrible.”
Brendan Quinn, who was the USBWA’s pool reporter for all of the Pittsburgh contests requested to speak to the officials regarding the technical foul but was told that the policy was given for time and situation calls and thus the request did not meet the standard for an interview.
Here is some thoughts provided by social media.
Can we please get rid of hanging on the rim as a tech. Who actually cares?
— Robbie Hummel (@RobbieHummel) March 20, 2022
I hope Brian O’Connell had to explain that techno to the pool reporter.
He should have to come to a full press conference because the kid who dunked and drew the technical will.
— Mike Waters (@MikeWatersSYR) March 20, 2022
This ref calling the tech on the Illinois kid for hanging on the rim should be arrested immediately and held without bail because he obviously has no idea what his job is and he constitutes a clear public menace.
— Bob Ryan (@GlobeBobRyan) March 20, 2022
Unbelievable. Ill be back❕ https://t.co/tpzeZYz1YB
— RJ Melendez (@MelendezRamses) March 20, 2022