A wild finish was overshadowed by controversy in the final seconds of St. John’s (21-10) 65-63 victory over Rutgers.
Following a back and forth final minute, Rutgers (15-17) attempted a pass that was knocked away at half-court, ending the game. It seems simple – it wasn’t.
Following the buzzer, a red-faced Mike Rice screamed at the officials for two non-calls and a missed call.
It appears there may have been contact when the Rutgers player attempted to catch the half-court heave that was knocked away. When the knocked away pass was picked up, Justin Brownlee also appears to have traveled and stepped out of bounds.
After the game Rice, the Rutgers head coach, said, “There was a mistake made. They will admit it.” Saying he was able to watch the replay on Youtube after the game.
He was correct.
Following the game Big East Commissioner John Marinatto released a statement saying the conference acknowledged “two officiating errors” at the conclusion of the game.
“Both missed violations should have caused the game clock to stop and a change of possession to occur,” he said.
He added that neither error was reviewable or correctable under NCAA rules.
If the officials had called out of bounds, Rutgers would have had one more shot to either take the lead, or win the game.
There is also some question as to whether a technical foul would have been called if the referees ruled Brownlee stepped out of bounds for throwing the ball into the stands.
For St. John’s, it probably should not have even come down to some favorable officiating for them to come away with the victory.
After seeing their double-digit lead with eight minutes left dwindle to nothing in the final minute, the Johnnies seemed intent on keeping Rutgers in the game.
Protecting a one-point lead and taking the ball out under Rutgers’ basket, Dwight Hardy had a pass bounce off him out of bounds.
“The ball just went right through my hands and hit my shoulder,” said Hardy. “It was an accurate pass.”
After forcing a missed shot, Brownlee grabbed the rebound and was fouled, but missed the front end of the one-and-one. The missed shot’s rebound hit off a Rutgers player out of bounds.
D.J. Kennedy was fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass, hitting both free throws and setting up the final sequence.
After the game Head Coach Steve Lavin, who didn’t get a clear view of the play because of the chaos, said he felt like he saw a ghost in the Garden.
“I was fortunate we were going to be able to go to the locker room and get to the next round.”
Hardy, the conferences most improved player and a member of the Big East’s All- First team led the Johnnies with 17 points. Senior Sean Evans added 13 points and 9 rebounds.
Rutgers, who finished under .500 precluding them from NCAA or NIT Tournament, is left to go back home and wonder the whole off-season what could have been.
The Johnnies on the other hand live to play again tomorrow when they face the fourth-seeded #11 Syracuse Orange, who handed St. John’s their only defeat at MSG this year, at the Garden at 2 p.m.