Controversial flagrant foul call dooms Seton Hall in loss to Arkansas

A controversial call helped Arkansas hold off Seton Hall. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
A controversial call helped Arkansas hold off Seton Hall. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

With a chance to take a lead late in its first round game against Arkansas, Seton Hall made two costly mistakes in the final minute. One was extremely controversial.

Trailing 72-71 with less than 30 seconds remaining, Seton Hall had the ball in the hands of its top offensive threat: Khadeen Carrington. Arkansas pressured the junior guard with a trap beyond the 3-point arc and Carrington was called for a travel at the worst time.

After a timeout, the ball went back to Arkansas and Seton Hall was forced to foul. Desi Rodriguez did just that, but was whistled for a flagrant one when the foul was deemed to be excessive.

Rodriguez did not make a play on the ball and Arkansas’ Jaylen Barford tumbled to the hardwood after Rodriguez’s left leg made contact with Barford’s. The flagrant call was made quickly, giving the Razorbacks two shots and the ball. Barford calmly sank both free throws to increase the lead to three, 74-71, with 18 seconds to go.

Since Arkansas still had possession, Seton Hall had to foul again. This time, a common foul was called and Daryl Macon hit one of his two attempts to bring the lead to four. Seton Hall had two more chances on offense, but a miracle was not in the cards, allowing Arkansas to hang on, 77-71.

After the game, J.D. Collins, the NCAA’s coordinator of officiating, explained on TNT why the flagrant call was the right one. Collins said because Rodriguez did not make a play on the ball with a foul that is “specifically designed to stop or keep the clock from starting,” it was deemed more than just a common foul.

“If he runs up from behind two hands on, they’re going to go to the monitor and they’re going to come out with a flagrant one foul. By rule, that’s what they’ve been instructed to do. The crew did a great job addressing it,” Collins said.

“If he makes a legitimate attempt to play the ball and the referees see that, they’re likely going to say, ‘Hey that’s OK, he was playing the ball.’”

Collins also said the trip that caused Barford to fall did not play into the flagrant ruling.

The entire arena knew Seton Hall had to foul in that situation. And if Rodriguez simply had gone after the ball instead of with a two-handed shove, the Pirates would have had a chance to tie the game on the ensuing possession. Instead, they’re heading home in excruciating fashion.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!