On Oscar night, Rick Majerus gave a great performance.
The burly Utah coach banged his fist on a scorer's table three times, slammed down a clipboard, punched in the air, shouted, stomped, stared and pointed at a referee. Silence of a lamb, certainly not.For that 10-second clip, Majerus did not win an Academy Award. Instead, he earned a technical foul with 9.7 seconds left Monday night that enabled Notre Dame to rally past Utah 58-55 and reach the championship game of the NIT.
"I was wrong and I cost my team the game. I lost control," Majerus said. "But for a game to be decided on that kind of call, I don't know."
A foul called on Utah during a scramble in the middle prompted Majerus' outburst, and the resulting luck o' the Irish sent them into Wednesday night's game against Virginia for the National Invitation Tournament title.
"We watched Virginia earlier in the evening, and they look like they've improved. Bryant Stith is just a tremendous player and I think an excellent NBA prospect," said Notre Dame coach John MacLeod, formerly an NBA coach in New York, Phoenix and Dallas.
Still, all anyone wanted to ask MacLeod and Majerus about after their game was the ending of their game.
Utah (23-11) had taken its first lead of the night at 55-54 on Phil Dixon's 3-pointer with 34 seconds remaining. Notre Dame (18-14) missed a couple of shots, got the rebound both times and called a timeout with 12 seconds to go.
On the inbounds play under the basket, LaPhonso Ellis bounced the ball off his foot and Utah recovered. But Paul Afeaki was called for pushing Ellis, triggering Majerus' tantrum.
"I thought it wasn't a foul and that he put it off his foot and we got it," Majerus said.
"I thought he got bumped," MacLeod said. "The official had no one in front of him to block his view. There was no hesitation of the whistle."
Nor was their any wait when referee John Cahill teed up and teed off Majerus.
"It was deserved," Majerus said of his technical. "I've got nothing to say about the officials. But I'm not going to ask one of them on a camping trip this summer."
MacLeod said he was sorry to see the game decided on a technical foul at the end, although he lost a game in a similar fashion this season. And just a few days ago, a technical foul helped decide the Kentucky-Massachusetts game in the NCAA tournament.
"I feel bad about that," he said. "I hate to see that happen."
Virginia 62, Florida 56
Virginia was led by Bryant Stith's 27 points and 15 rebounds. Earlier in the season, Virginia routed Notre Dame 83-56 in Charlottesville, Va., on Jan. 18.
Stith, Virginia's career scoring leader, had 10 points in the last nine minutes as the Cavaliers overcame a 49-45 deficit.
The 6-foot-5 senior also tied a career high with his 15 rebounds. He is second on the school's rebounding list, trailing only Ralph Sampson.
"Bryant was his usual self," Virginia coach Jeff Jones said. "It really wasn't anything extraordinary. I've seen it so many times."
Virginia (19-13) is trying to win its second NIT title, having won in 1980 in Sampson's freshman season. Notre Dame has reached the NIT championship twice before, and never won. Stith scored 19 points in Virginia's victory over the Irish two months ago.