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March Madness 2022: Illinois head coach rips officials, says ref told him technical foul was bad call

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Illinois head coach Brad Underwood ripped officials Sunday after guard RJ Melendez was called for a controversial technical foul in the team’s NCAA Men’s Tournament loss to Houston.

Melendez’s emphatic slam dunk cut Houston’s lead to just four with less than nine minutes left in the second half of Illinois’ second-round game against No. 5 Houston.

As the crowd roared, Melendez clung to the rim to stop his forward motion, but he received a technical foul from official Brian O’Connell for hanging onto the rim too long.


Illinois head coach Brad Underwood disagrees with a technical foul called on a dunk by RJ Melendez in the second half of a college basketball game against Houston in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Pittsburgh on Sunday, March 20, 2022. Houston won 68-53.
(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Underwood called the call “deflating” and said it “changed the momentum of the game”. He also noted that the referee told him he shouldn’t have made the call.

“For it to be called at that time?” Underwood said. “(O’Connell) told me he should never have called him. Maybe it’s personal, I don’t know. To call him that, when a kid has a head of steam going 100 mph?”

“Come on. And then kill the moose like that? Horrible,” the coach added.

The controversial call was also criticized by NBA legend Reggie Miller, who was on color commentary during the broadcast.

“No. No. Absolutely not. I’m sorry,” Miller said. “First of all, his momentum takes him with him. He has to back up. You can’t give that young man a technical foul for that. He doesn’t show up or anything. Because if he doesn’t don’t (hold on to the rim), he’ll almost commit suicide.You have to swing on the rim.


Illinois was outscored 22-11 after the call.

Melendez, a freshman from Puerto Rico, told reporters after the game that the official did not give him a reason for the technical foul.

“I don’t know what the problem was with that,” Melendez said. “I was going full speed through that transition, so I was always thinking about Paul George’s injury, what happened landing on the mat, on the rim, so I’m just trying to hold on, to pick up some pace, get back on both feet.”

March Madness 2022: Illinois head coach rips officials, says ref told him technical foul was bad call

Illinois’ Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk, right, and RJ Melendez sit on the bench as their team lost to Houston with time running out during the second half of a second-round college basketball game of the NCAA Tournament, Sunday, March 20. 2022, in Pittsburgh. Houston won 68-53 to advance to the Sweet 16.
(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

It was another disappointing year for the fourth seed Fighting Illini (23-10). The team was determined to go further after being pushed around by Loyola Chicago last year, but they couldn’t make it past opening weekend.

Illinois ended up losing the game 68-53 at PPG Paints Arena. The team shot 34% from the field.

March Madness 2022: Illinois head coach rips officials, says ref told him technical foul was bad call

Houston’s Taze Moore (4) goes for a layup during the first half of a college basketball game as Illinois’ RJ Melendez (15) and Coleman Hawkins (33) watch the second round of the tournament NCAA at Pittsburgh, Sunday, March 20, 2022.
(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)


Houston is on the Sweet 16.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


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