Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Officials Leave Court Before St. John's-Rutgers Game Ends. Big East: Game Is Over

In what has to be one of the most embarrassing moments in Big East Tournament history, game officials left the Madison Square Garden court with 1.7 seconds remaining in the game after a player traveled,  stepped out-of-bounds and then threw the game ball into the air.   St. John's was the lucky recipient of the missed call and won the second-round game over Rutgers, 65-63.

The bizarre sequence of events began on a full-court Rutgers inbounds pass, with 4.9 seconds remaining, which was tipped away to St. John's forward Justin Brownlee who dribbled towards the Red Storm bench to shake head coach Steve Lavin's hand but took three steps, touched the sideline and hurled the ball into the air on the way.  While the clock should have been stopped with 1.7 showing on the clock, two veteran officials, James Burr and Tim Higgins, rushed from the court as Rutgers players pleaded and pointed at the clock.  Nothing was discussed.

The non-call which would have given the ball back to Rutgers by either Brownlee stepping out-of-bounds or a travelling call was not the real issue.  Throwing the ball into the stands with time on the clock is a technical foul and would have given the Scarlet Knights two free throws AND the ball.

Lavin, said he didn't see the clock and none of the opposing players or coaches said anything to him during the final handshakes and the frantic play of both teams during the final seconds made it easy for the refs to miss a call.  He would only say that both teams "played their fannies off."

The Red Storm escaped with the win and Rutgers was basically robbed on a couple of other non-calls during the sloppy final minutes.

What's more amazing is the fact that the officials scurried off the court while Rutgers players stood in front of them and pointed out the discretion.  The officials didn't even consider looking at the videotapes.

Conspiracy theorists are having a field day.  Some are accusing the Big East of trying to set up a dream quarterfinal re-match between #4 Syracuse and the local favorites #5 St. John's.  It would be the Red Storm's first Big East quarterfinal game since 2003.

Others are looking at the over/under of 127.5 as a reason for the "muffed" calls, as if Tim Donahay was calling the game and the fix was in.

For now it looks like St. John's will move on in the tournament while Rutgers fans scream and protest the swallowed whistle.  The Big East will not put the two teams on the court tonight and said the game is over.

According to the Mike Francesa Show, the Big East released a statement after the game which said there were "two separate missed calls which occurred during the game...neither error is correctable or reviewable.  The two missed calls were traveling and stepping out of bounds."

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