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The first game of Sunday’s second round slate in the men’s NCAA tournament was a 4-5 matchup between Illinois and Houston that became an unsurprising defensive struggle. Illinois, desperate for a spark in the second half, went to a couple freshmen off the bench and found some success, particularly from RJ Melendez.

Melendez had nine points midway through the second half, including this highlight reel dunk on a fastbreak where he flew out in front of the pack and threw down a big dunk to ignite the crowd. The freshman swung back and started running back down the court to get on defense, not taunting Houston or really offering much of any reaction when he got whistled for a dreadful technical foul that had Reggie Miller incensed in the commentary booth.

Miller was 100 percent correct, as even CBS officiating consultant Gene Steratore said he didn’t pull himself up or swing over an opponent or anything else they look for in that situation and felt a technical shouldn’t have been called. Reggie broke down why Melendez had to swing on the rim in that situation so he didn’t fall and possibly hurt himself because of how fast he was moving on the dunk initially.

It’s a truly awful call and unfortunately one that may end up being important in a tight game where points have been hard to come by. Houston made the technical free throw on the other end to push the lead back out to five rather than four, and if the Illini end up losing by a slim margin, it’ll be hard not to see that as a massive moment that should never have happened.


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