Ejections to Anim, John derail No. 23 Marquette in BIG EAST Tournament semifinals

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Ejections to Anim, John derail No. 23 Marquette in BIG EAST Tournament semifinals

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Photo by Jordan Johnson

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NEW YORK — For most of Marquette’s conference semifinal matchup against Seton Hall Friday, it looked like the Golden Eagles had a good chance of heading to their first BIG EAST Championship in the Steve Wojciechowski era.

Then a post-foul skirmish in the second half wildly changed the game, ejecting sophomore center Theo John and redshirt junior guard Sacar Anim and sparking a series of bizarre MU miscues. Marquette could not hold onto the lead with a short bench, losing 81-79 to the Seton Hall Pirates.

“It was the most unusual basketball game I’ve ever been a part of,” Wojciechowski said. “I feel bad for my (team). They’re in (the locker room), and they’re sobbing. I wish our kids would’ve had a chance to decide the game. And (Seton Hall’s) kids, too.”

The altercation occurred following a layup by Seton Hall star guard Myles Powell at the 13:15 mark in the second half. John, Anim, Seton Hall guard Myles Powell and Seton Hall forward Sandro Mamukelashvili all received technical fouls. 

Powell, Seton Hall’s leading scorer, initially appeared to be ejected, but then the Seton Hall staff ran to bring him back to the court when it became clear he was still eligible to play.

“It probably wasn’t communicated clearly to them that his personal foul in the first half is a live ball flagrant foul, which carries a different penalty than the technical foul,” lead official James Breeding said. “Those two together don’t result in an ejection.”

Breeding said he told both benches Powell could play, but the public address announcer made a mistake when announcing it.

Breeding said the technical fouls to Anim and Powell were a result of a “verbal altercation” with each other. The John ejection was a result of making contact with Powell “in a vulnerable position.”

None of the fouls will have any carryover to future games because the officials decided they were not “fightable acts.”

The officials called an abnormal nine technical fouls between Marquette and Seton Hall.

“I would just say that the fouls that were called are fouls we’ve called all year throughout the season,” Breeding said.

The lack of depth was hardly the only issue Marquette experienced against the Pirates.

Marquette initially weathered the Pirates’ attack, but MU’s lack of depth resulted in no field goals in the last 2:40 of the game. The Golden Eagles had only three defensive rebounds in the last eight minutes of the game.

“It was really tough for us not having our two best defenders in the game,” Wojciechowski said.

The Golden Eagles attempted 14 free throws in the final two minutes but could not take advantage. Markus Howard, normally a 90.7-percent shooter from the line, missed four free throws while battling a wrist injury.

“We put ourselves in a position to win,” Wojciechowski said. “We didn’t make some plays.”

Howard shot 1 for 15 and missed the end of the first half with a left wrist injury.

“He was good enough to play,” Wojciechowski said. “Boy, does he take punishment (from defenders), … but we’re just going to have to get him through with all the bumps and bruises that he has, especially over the last few weeks.”

The dramatic ending overshadowed an efficient day from Sam and Joey Hauser. The Hauser duo combined to score 34 of Marquette’s 79 points. They were also the only Marquette players to hit a 3-pointer in the first half.

“Both the Hausers played phenomenal first halves, really, really tough first halves,” Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard said.

The loss marks the fifth time in the last six games that Marquette has blown a second-half lead.

Contrary to standard BIG EAST Tournament protocol, neither locker room was open to media following the game.

Marquette found out it was the fifth seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament Sunday evening. 

“We have more basketball to play,” Wojciechowski said. “We’re going to the NCAA Tournament. We have a chance to do some things. … Usually in the NCAA Tournament, they get back to the initial points of emphasis.”

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