With 43.8 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and the Boilermakers up 75-71, Purdue forward D.J. Byrd was called for a flagrant one foul. At first glance, it appeared two Wildcat players had trapped Byrd on the baseline, and as Byrd attempted to free space, he aggressively struck Villanova’s Darrun Hilliard in the face with an elbow. Remember, this was at first glance. Play was immediately blown dead and an offensive foul was called on Byrd, as Hilliard laid on the ground covering his face.
The three officials gathered to review the replay and determine whether or not it would be a flagrant one. They ultimately decided it was, it became Byrd’s fifth foul and Purdue had lost its leading scorer for the remainder of the game. More importantly, Villanova was getting two free throws and possession back. The Wildcats drained the free throws and scored on the next possession to force overtime, going on to win 89-81 and advance to the 2K Classic Finals.
The problem with this is Byrd’s foul never should have been called a flagrant one in the first place. It barely even should have been called an offensive foul.
The replays showed Bryd barely touched Hilliard at all. Instead of an aggressive elbow to Hilliard’s face, the replayed showed the slight brushing of Byrd’s upper-tricep across the tip of Hilliard’s nose. Byrd’s motion was not aggressive. His hips moved faster than his shoulders did while the ball remained above his head as he attempted to pivot. There was certainly no attempt at intentional contact and the sell job by Hilliard made the situation look a lot worse than it actually was.
How three officials could review the replay and determine Byrd’s actions were worthy of a flagrant one worthy is beyond inexcusable. The decision completely altered the outcome of the game and the actions that resulted in the call were not even close to being worth the result. The refs blew this call big time and basically handed the victory to Villanova.
Should it have been an offensive foul? Maybe. Hilliard was awfully close to Byrd as he attempted to trap him against the line and prevent any pass opportunity. The argument could be made that Hilliard was too close and there was no way Byrd could blink without coming into contact with Hilliard. Regardless, contact was made, so it’s fair to deem the call offensive foul worthy but flagrant one? No Chance. After all, the outcome was Purdue losing its leading scorer and pretty much the only player on either team that seemed interested in winning the game. That is punishment enough.
The game itself was ugly, don’t let the high scoring total fool you. This game basically saw both teams take turns going on 12-0 runs. None of which were a result of intense defense. All of which were a result of both teams being ice cold, then red hot then back to ice cold. It was difficult to watch the poor shooting and poor shot selection.
Byrd was the only player on either team that was consistent throughout. Then again, he was the only player on either team that didn’t continuously shoot from the NBA three-point line that was left on the court of the Madison Square Garden arena. Both teams combined to shoot 47 three-pointers, and only sunk 13 of them. You could almost see the disgust on the face of both coaches as they watched their players repeatedly shoot from the NBA line instead of the NCAA line. It might be time to remove the NBA line from the court during these games as it clearly played a factor into last night’s contest.
Regardless, there’s still no excuse for calling Byrd’s late foul a flagrant one, he barely touched Hilliard as he slowly attempted to pivot. There is no reason what-so-ever Villanova should have had two free throws and the ball back.
Purdue was flat out robbed.