BOSTON — Along with his reputation for being a vicious rim defender and a hungry rebounder, West Virginia center Sagaba Konate will carry some more baggage into next season: A two-game technical streak.
“People say I have a temper, but I don’t have any temper,” he said after losing 90-78 to Villanova in the Sweet 16. “That’s the way I play. I’m emotional.”
With 6:20 left in Friday’s game, after Konate powered a two-handed dunk that pulled WVU within 73-66, he and Wildcats freshman Omari Spellman drew offsetting technicals as they jogged downcourt. Replays showed no contact, no taunting, not even a stare-down, and both players acted surprised by the call.
Spellman described the exchange as “just two guys competing,” and Villanova coach Jay Wright labeled it “no biggie.” Konate said the official didn’t tell him what he saw.
“He just said to get off the court, so I said ‘Alright, sir.’ Honestly I didn’t didn’t do anything. Coaches told me don’t get into any argument with the ref because they have all the power in the game. And you won’t get any 50/50 calls.”
When Konate received a technical in the second-round win over Marshall, assistant coach Erik Martin considered it a momentary regression from the progress the sophomore made during a breakout season.
“A technical will always bother me because that’s not what our problem is about,” Martin said. “And it will bother me because we had addressed that a long time ago — I thought we had moved on from that.”
Konate flirted with a technical in the first half. After suffering a cut on his right hand that required a bandage, Konate returned to the court during a timeout and curiously strolled over to Villanova’s huddle along the opposite bench. Wildcats players and assistants pushed him away as an official raced over to intervene.
Konate couldn’t explain his faux pas of wading into the enemy’s huddle.
The West Virginia staff hopes to harness the fire that propelled Konate to average 10.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.2 blocks. His season-ending performance against the Wildcats — 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting, nine rebounds and three rejections — included a two-handed stuff after Mikal Bridges drove for a dunk attempt.
“Konate is one of the best rim protectors I’ve seen in college basketball in a long time, and I was an assistant in the Big East when Mutombo and Mourning were at Georgetown,” Wright said. “Mikal Bridges is one of the best athletes around, and he took it at him, couldn’t finish. The kid is impressive. The kid is really tough.”
Impressive, tough and excitable.
“I’m not one to stifle emotion,” Martin said. “I played with emotion and you could see it on my face. And I’d rather have a guy I’ve got to calm down as opposed to a guy I’ve got to get hyped up.
“Sags has matured. He’s put in all the work. But with emotions, sometimes you’ve got to bring things in and kind of control them. Sometimes Sags is good at that and sometimes we’ve got take him out and sit him down.”