Amid controversy, St. John’s knocks off Rutgers

Dwight Hardy had 17 points as No. 5 seed St. John’s advanced with a 65-63 win over No. 13 seed Rutgers. The Red Storm will advance to the Big East quarterfinals for the first time since 2003 where it will face No. 4 seed Syracuse.

How the game was won: This game will be remembered more for the officiating than it was for the play. With 4.9 seconds left and Rutgers trailing by two, the Scarlet Knights tried a three-quarter court pass to Gilvydas Biruta. But the ball was tipped and Justin Brownlee came away with the ball as St. John’s appeared to clinch it.

But Brownlee appeared to travel with the ball and step out of bounds with 1.7 seconds left on the clock before hurling the ball into the stands. No whistle was made by the veteran officiating crew consisting of Jim Burr, Tim Higgins and Earl Walton. Instead, they simply walked off the court.

Afterward, the Big East issued a statement: “Two separate officiating errors occurred at the conclusion of the St. John’s vs. Rutgers game. Both missed violations should have caused the game clock to stop and a change of possession to occur prior to the end of the game. Neither error is reviewable or correctable under NCAA playing rules.”

There were a few other controversial calls (or non-calls) as well, but as the rule states, the call is not reviewable, and the result will stand.

Rutgers rally: With a little more than eight minutes to go, the Scarlet Knights trailed by 10 points and it appeared that St. John’s was on the verge of running away with the game. But Rutgers went on a late 7-0 run, and with 57 seconds left, the Scarlet Knights took a one point lead after Mike Coburn’s layup plus a foul shot.

The Red Storm quickly responded with four free throws to take a three point lead. St. John’s coach Steve Lavin ordered his squad to foul with 13.4 seconds, putting Coburn on the line for a pair of free throws. Coburn hit both, and Dwight Hardy’s ensuing turnover gave Rutgers a chance to win it. But Coburn’s jumper missed, and DJ Kennedy was fouled to set up the controversial closing seconds to the game.

Quote to note: “Was there a mistake made? I saw it on YouTube. There was a mistake made.” – Rutgers head coach Mike Rice to reporters following the game.

What it means for Syracuse: The Red Storm improved to 8-1 at Madison Square Garden with the win. The only loss? Jan. 12 against Syracuse. But St. John’s has gone on an incredible run since then, beating Duke, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Villanova at the Garden. The Red Storm is one of the hottest teams in the Big East, winners of eight of its last nine games.

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.
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