Holding a four-point lead and the ball, the Boilermakers inbounded the ball to senior D.J. Byrd along the sideline, enabling a pair of Wildcats to trap him and attempt to force a turnover. Byrd raised his arms in an effort to protect the ball and caught Villanova's Darrun Hilliard in the face with his triceps, an offensive foul that referees ruled to be a Flagrant 1 foul.
The call was the turning point in the game because it was the fifth foul on Byrd, the Purdue's second-half catalyst, and it awarded Villanova two shots and the ball. Hilliard sank two free throws to cut the lead to two, Ryan Arcidiacono hit two more to force overtime after a Purdue foul on the ensuing possession and the Wildcats pulled away in overtime to escape with an 89-81 win.
Whether the referees got the call on Byrd correct depends on if glancing contact with the triceps is considered to be the same as the elbow or not.
According to the NCAA rule book, a Flagrant 1 foul occurs when a player "swings an elbow and makes non-excessive contact with an opponent above the shoulders." Byrd indeed swings his arms above his head in an effort to clear space, but the non-excessive contact with Hilliard was made with the triceps and not the elbow.
"It's obviously the worst thing that could happen,'' Byrd told ESPN.com's Andy Katz. "The rule is if the elbow comes above where it's not supposed to then it's a Flagrant 1. They got it right. It obviously wasn't intentional but that's the way the game goes.''
Villanova's ability to take advantage of the call gives the Wildcats the chance to build some early momentum and put last year's disappointing season further in the rear view mirror. The Wildcats, 13-19 a year ago, are supposed to be in a rebuilding season with a thin bench and a freshman point guard in the starting lineup, but they're 3-0 with solid wins over Purdue and Marshall heading into Friday's title game against Alabama.
For Purdue, the loss stings more because a win over Villanova could have helped make up for the Boilermakers' season-opening home loss to Bucknell. Now they're 1-2 entering Friday's consolation game against Oregon State with matchups with Clemson, Xavier and Notre Dame remaining before Big Ten play begins.
Purdue cannot solely blame the flagrant foul call, however, for its loss on Thursday night. The Boilermakers sank only 16 of 28 free throws, failed to get off a good shot on their final possession of regulation and didn't handle overtime well with Byrd on the bench unable to help.