Madness at the Mecca: Seton Hall survives Marquette and officiating nightmare in Big East Tournament semis

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NEW YORK — It might not have been the most dramatic game you will ever see, but there is a good chance Seton Hall’s 81-79 win over Marquette in the Big East Tournament semifinals will be the wildest game you will witness for some time.

Three players ejected. Four disqualified through foul accumulation. Eight technical fouls, six of which came in the second half. Myles Powell being sent to the locker room due to a “scorebook error.” Two closed locker rooms, which I’m told is extremely rare if not unprecedented in terms of Big East Tournament history. 85 free throw attempts (30 of which were missed).

The body count left Steve Wojciechowski in a controlled rage at the Garden’s podium and his players distraught in their locker room.

“I’ve never been apart of a basketball game like that before. It’s unexplainable. Unexplainable,” said Wojo after taking the podium by storm and congratulating Kevin Willard.

“It was the most unusual basketball game I’ve ever been apart of. I feel bad for my kids, they’re in there sobbing. I wish our kids would have had a chance to decide the game, and their kids too,” added Wojo before giving a not-so-subtle jab at the conference by mentioning how the N.C.A.A. tournament is officiated closer to the book.

Willard, who was handed a technical for a rather tame reaction to a non-call after Myles Powell rattled off eight points in a New York minute (and 13 seconds) early in the second half, didn’t fire any shots at the league.

“I’m not being political, I thought after the 12 minute mark when they got all that straightened out, I thought the three refs did a pretty good job to be honest with you.

“It’s an emotional game, Friday night in the Garden. Big East Tournament. Both teams played extremely hard, emotions were running. After the scrum underneath our basket, I actually thought the refs did a great job of getting the kids where they were focused on playing, and I’m not just saying that.”

Willard is being nice after Quincy McKnight and Jared Rhoden picked up technicals down the stretch for doing things you wouldn’t bat an eye at in a typical game.

Rhoden missed a wide open dunk and then hung on the rim for his own safety and McKnight expressed the slightest bit of emotion before running away after what appeared to be a clean swipe of Markus Howard in the backcourt.

All of Seton Hall’s players will be able to play on Saturday night as the Big East only suspends players for additional games when they are ejected from a game for fighting or something similar.

The Pirates’ star player — Myles Powell — was nearly ejected in the aftermath of the game’s defining scrum.

Powell was escorted off the court before returning to a raucous applause minutes later. No one was quite sure if he was allowed to play until he checked back in.

It was chalked up to confusion.

“His first foul was a flagrant one. It wasn’t a technical foul,” said Willard, referring Powell’s first half encounter with Sacar Anim.

“When they came over and said ‘That’s obviously his second,’ I thought James Breeding did a good job of going to the book and correcting it. So I know he was a little upset after he got tossed, but I think it was more a scorebook error than it was anything else.”

Powell comically recalled his near ejection that featured tears.

“It was crazy. Just to be able to get called back to the game, I was happy. I felt like I let my teammates down.Them giving me a second chance, I really appreciate it. It’s all a blessing,” said Powell, before recalling what an assistant coach told him when summoning him back to the court.

“He just said ‘Coach said come back out.’ Once I heard that, I’m wiping my tears. ‘Come back out!?’ So I ran back out.”

In addition to the extracurricular madness, Marquette’s Markus Howard appeared to re-injure his wrist late in the first half, Quincy McKnight took two shots to the head — one being friendly fire — and Romaro Gill was briefly looked at by trainer Tony Testa after getting scratched near his mouth by an errant Marquette hand. 

The game truly had a body count.

It was Big East basketball at its finest, and the officials tried their hardest to ruin it.

While the beauty of the semifinal’s intensity will be marred by what seemed to be a comedy of officiating errors, the bottom line is this:

Seton Hall will be playing for their second Big East Tournament title in four years on Saturday night.

In fact, it could turn out to be the second Big East Tournament win for Seton Hall on the same day, as tonight’s slug-fest ended a few minutes past midnight.

When’s the last time a team won two games on the same 24-hour day, let alone a conference title?

The Pirates are a win away from such an unprecedented feat.