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Big East notebook

Referees pull out of Big East play

Associated Press / March 11, 2011

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The three officials cited for two errors in the final seconds of the St. John’s-Rutgers game Wednesday have withdrawn from the rest of the Big East tournament.

Veteran referees Jim Burr, Tim Higgins, and Earl Walton missed two calls — a travel and stepping out of bounds — in the final 1.7 seconds of St. John’s 65-63 second-round victory at Madison Square Garden.

The Big East acknowledged after the game the officials blew the calls. Yesterday, conference commissioner John Marinatto said the three officials have “voluntarily withdrawn’’ in “the best interests of those involved.’’

Marinatto called the league’s officials a “very dedicated and loyal group of professionals.’’ Last year, Burr worked the Big East semifinals and Higgins the championship game.

Burr has worked 16 Final Fours, the first in 1985, the last in 2006, and has done seven national championship games. Higgins has worked 10 Final Fours, the first in 1988, the last in 2004, and has done four national championship games.

Walton has never worked a Final Four.

Kennedy has torn ACL St. John’s played most of its quarterfinal loss to Syracuse without D.J. Kennedy, and the Red Storm will have to go through their first NCAA Tournament since 2002 without the senior guard.

Kennedy, the team’s third-leading scorer (10.7) and top rebounder (5.7), went to the floor while going after an offensive rebound. He immediately called for the trainer and was helped to the locker room. An X-ray and MRI revealed Kennedy tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He will undergo surgery and his recovery time is estimated at 6-8 months.

“This is a tough time to lose both a leader and vital member of our team,’’ coach Steve Lavin said. “We will miss his leadership, versatility, and experience.’’

A-10 back in action The Atlantic 10 conference tournament resumes today in Atlantic City, with Rhode Island closing out the quarterfinal round at 9 p.m. against Richmond. The sixth-seeded Rams (19-12) won their first-round matchup, 70-61 over Saint Louis, Tuesday night in Kingston, R.I.

Third-seeded Richmond (24-7) went 13-3 in conference play, but one of those losses was a 78-74 home setback to Rhode Island Jan. 13. The Rams hit 12 3-pointers in that game, including six by Nikola Malesevic and four by Akeem Richmond.

A win would put URI in the semifinals for the second straight year and give the Rams their fourth straight 20-win season under coach Jim Baron. URI was eliminated last year by Temple, 57-44.

Top seed Xavier takes on Dayton at noon, followed by Duquesne and Saint Joseph’s. Temple, the three-time defending tournament champion, plays La Salle at 6:30.

NCAA: Baylor ‘off base’ A day after ruling Baylor freshman Perry Jones ineligible for accepting improper benefits, the NCAA said the university was wrong in criticizing how the case was handled and suggesting there were similarities to problems at Auburn and Ohio State.

Jones was ruled out for the rest of the season a few hours before the Bears lost to Oklahoma in the Big 12 tournament Wednesday night. The NCAA determined he and his family received improper benefits from an AAU coach before enrolling at Baylor.

Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw said the decision appeared “to be inconsistent with other recent widely discussed NCAA decisions.’’ In a later TV interview, McCaw referenced cases involving the Ohio State and Auburn football teams this past season.

The NCAA said Baylor “is off base, related to timing, process and precedent,’’ and added that it notified Baylor of potential eligibility issues with Jones on multiple occasions in January.

Gophers, Smith close Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said he’s working on a contract extension that will keep him with the Gophers long-term despite speculation he could take another job after the season. Minnesota was eliminated from the Big Ten tournament with its 10th loss in 11 games . . . Arkansas is reviewing a report suggesting coach John Pelphrey had contact with a pair of 2012 recruits in violation of NCAA rules. The report from CBSSports.com includes a picture of Pelphrey with Sylvan Hills (Ark.) High standout Archie Goodwin and teammate Trey Smith at a high school tournament in December. NCAA rules state coaches cannot have off-campus contact with a prospect until the July 1 following the prospect’s junior year in high school . . . Tom Asbury is retiring as Pepperdine coach, with top assistant Marty Wilson set to take over the program. Asbury first served as Waves coach from 1989-94, and he was asked to return in February 2008 . . . The NCAA is putting the SMU men’s program on two years of probation, ruling that its staff sent approximately 100 impermissible text messages to the parents of at least seven prospects. SMU will also face recruiting restrictions for what the NCAA called major rules violations.