Big East Conference Tournament referees Jim Burr and Tim Higgins, who are each known for their questionable whistle blowing, might have finally crossed the line Wednesday when St. John's edged Rutgers, 65-63, in second-round game that wont be remembered for its gritty play, but its atrocious late-game officiating.
If you haven't heard from hearsay, an exploding Twitter feed or Facebook posts, Burr, Higgins and Earl Walton failed to call a travel or an out of bounds turnover on St. John's senior forward Justin Brownlee, who prematurely celebrated the Red Storm's victory after picking up a deflected desperation in-bound pass from Rutgers with under two seconds remaining.
Controversial Ending Of St. Johns/Rutgers Big East Tournament 3/9 (via AwfulannouncinBGreen)
The replay clearly shows the ball being deflected, then Brownlee scooping it up, walking with it and stepping out of bounds with about 1.7 seconds remaining. Unfortunately for Rutgers fans, Higgins and Burr were running the show and basically gave up on the game (the replay also shows Higgins speed walking to the locker room). If there was a call then the Scarlet Knights would have had another inbound around mid court, a position much more favorable for a game-tying or game-winning basket. And, if you're a college basketball fan you know 1.7 seconds is plenty enough time to get off a quality shot from that spot on the court.
"Unacceptable," said John Adams, who is in charge of selecting and managing the 98 officials for the NCAA tournament, to ESPN.com's Andy Katz about the Rutgers-St. John's officiating.
Adams admitted that he could not confirm that Burr or Higgins will or will not work the NCAA Tournament. Adams said a decision will come on Sunday.
Even more interesting is that Rutgers head coach Mike Rice, who was screaming at the referees for a foul on the inbound pass, missed the entire thing. He shook hands with St. John's head coach Steve Lavin and left the court. However, he did respond to the media after seeing the replay.
"Was there a mistake made? I saw it on Youtube," Rice said. "There was a mistake made. There's no question. I'm sure they will admit it. I made several mistakes. My players made several mistakes. ... We have the greatest officials in America. ... There's going to be blood coming through my tongue right now, but it's what it is. We're going to control how we respond."
After the game, Lavin was asked about the no-call by ESPN analyst Doris Burke, but the slick-talking coach brushed off the question. However, it maybe that Lavin had no idea what was going on because everything was so nutty.
"I'll have to go back and watch," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said. "It was kind of chaotic, you know, flurry of sequences ... Until I can actually review the game and the closing moments, I wouldn't be informed enough to speak about it."
Kudos for ESPN announcers Burke, Dave Pasch and Fran Fraschilla for almost immediately point out Higgins and Burr's gaffe. I hope this officiating crew is held accountable because this game shouldn't have been remembered for this and the Big East is better than Higgins or Burr.
Check back for updates on this story as SB Nation New York receives more postgame information.