Maalik Wayns had a momentary meltdown and was whistled for the game-changing technical foul.
He got the 'T' and Villanova was saddled with its latest 'L.'
Not even an 18-point lead was enough for the Wildcats. Not five players in double figures. It's been that kind of season.
Darius Johnson-Odom scored 26 points and Jae Crowder had 20 points and 11 rebounds to help No. 17 Marquette storm back from an 18-point deficit and beat Villanova 82-78 on Saturday.
"I have a lot of concerns," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said.
With good reason. Johnson-Odom hit two free throws after Wayns' technical and Crowder tied it with a basket on the ensuing possession. That jump-started a late 8-0 run that helped Marquette take the lead for good.
"We were able to keep a level attitude in a game like that and not get carried away," Johnson-Odom said.
The Wildcats had the lead with 6:15 left when Wayns yelled a profanity because he was convinced a ball knocked off a Marquette player and went out of bounds, giving the arrow to the Wildcats.
Nope, Marquette ball. Johnson-Odom did his part from the line and Crowder tied it on a driving layup. Johnson-Odum made it 71-69, putting Marquette ahead for good.
"When it happens that late in the game, you don't have time to recover," Wright said. "Late in the game that kills you."
The Golden Eagles (18-4, 7-2 Big East) used a 10-0 run in the second half, capped by Crowder's falling-down 3-pointer, that tied the game at 55. Villanova got the lead back to four points until Wayns used profanity after what he thought was a blown call. The official looked straight at him, made the "T'' signal and the game changed from there.
"I didn't touch the ball at all," Wayns said. "I just reacted. I didn't say anything disrespectful to the ref. I don't know what caused the tech. He called it, so it is what it is."
JayVaughn Pinkston led Villanova (10-12, 3-7) with 17 points. Dominic Cheek had 13, and Maurice Sutton had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Pinkston hit a 3 with 8.6 seconds left to pull Villanova within two but it wasn't enough for the Wildcats, who had 20 turnovers.
There were three technical fouls in the game.
"When you're struggling, it's never one thing," Wright said.
This has been a down season for the Wildcats and their first NIT appearance in eight years appears more likely than another trip to the NCAA tournament. For 20 minutes, however, Villanova showed why Wright still likes his team and believes a solid foundation is in place for next season.
The Wildcats opened the game with three straight 3s and James Bell added a fourth for a 21-7 lead. They stretched the lead to 18 and were getting baskets from everyone. Bell, who came in averaging 7.6 points, had 11 at the break. Cheek also scored 11 in the first half, just a tick off his season average.
Winning or losing, neither coach was happy.
Wright was whistled for a technical and badgered the refs all half. Marquette coach Buzz Williams was hit with one after Marquette was called for a shooting foul, which allowed the Wildcats to hit four straight at the free throw line and make it a 13-point game.
Williams said he never complained to the officials, but simply fell down.
Throw in the T called against Wayns, and it was clear officials were paying attention after they were put on notice this week by John Adams, the national coordinator of men's basketball officiating. He posted a memo stating officials have done a "poor job" dealing with bad sportsmanship "committed by players, substitutes, and bench personnel, including head coaches."
"You should have a very low tolerance for players who use profanity towards officials or who "wave you off" after a call etc.," he wrote. "These types of actions call for technical fouls. Call them! Your coordinators and commissioners will support you."
The Wildcats had no answer for Johnson-Odom, who scored eight straight points and kept the Golden Eagles from letting the game get away from them. He buried a long 3 just before the buzzer to cut Villanova's lead to 46-36 at halftime.
"I think I got in a groove once we were down," Johnson-Odom said. "If the ball's in my hands, I think my teammates want me to take jumpers like that."
With momentum from that shot, Crowder opened the second half with a 3 and Vander Blue soared to complete an eye-popping alley-oop and make it a five-point deficit, prompting Wright to call a quick timeout.
That was just the start of the fun for Marquette.
On pace for their worst season under Wright since they went 18-17 in 2003-04, the Wildcats showed that their growing pains continue in the Big East.