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Rutgers coach classy about botched ending: ‘That’s just the way it is’

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Yesterday, Gil Biruta picked up his fifth foul in overtime when he was called for a technical for swinging his elbows.

It was a tough call for Mike Rice to swallow, no doubt, but his response — “That’s a tough call. Big East referees are the best in the world. I’m going to trust that they were right. In overtime that’s an unbelievable call.” — was professional, classy, and what we like to call taking the high road.

What are the odds that on Wednesday, just 24 hours after the call against Biruta, Rutgers would once again would be on the wrong end of a tough call late in the game. Only this time, the officials didn’t get it right and St. John’s claimed a 65-63 win.

First, the video:

As you can see, with time still left on the clock, Justin Brownlee traveled with the basketball and stepped out of bounds before throwing the ball into the stands. The travel or the out of bounds call should have given Rutgers the ball with 1.6 seconds left on the clock.

Andy Katz spoke to the head of NCAA officiating, who told him that the officials decision not to referee the game until the final buzzer was “unacceptable“.

Rice agreed. Kind of.

“Was there a mistake? I saw it on YouTube. There was a mistake made,” Rice said. “I’m sure they’ll say it. But that’s just the way it is.”

“Circumstances … it is what it is. It’s not what happens, its how you respond to it.”

And while Rice went out of his way to commend the officials, repeatedly saying those are great officials and that the Big East has the best crews in the country, its clear that he was holding back.

“There’s going to be blood coming through my tongue,” Rice said.

[kml_flashembed movie=”http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/33399756?launch=41996599″ width=”420″ height=”245″ allowFullscreen=”true” /]

That speaks to the character of Rice. He’s as intense and demanding as any coach in the country. With this being the second straight season his team was screwed in the postseason — if you remember, Robert Morris missed an enormous upset of Villanova due to some questionable refereeing — every one of the media members at the press conference (more than 100) expected a Bob Knight/Bobby Gonzalez level meltdown.

Instead, Rice was cracking jokes.

“I was a lunatic to be honest with you and I lost some self-control,” he said. “I admit it, and I thought it was a judgment call. Had I known it was 1.2, I might have literally held on, done a Van Gundy and held one of their legs on the court.”

“The judgment calls I have to believe that they are right,” he continued. “I watched him step out on our SID’s iPhone. He literally took three steps and — it was a mistake. The game should have been one more play, does that mean we’re going to win? Certainly not. It was a mistake and that’s what happens in basketball. I made a ton of mistakes in the last 48 hours in my life.”

This did not cost Rutgers the game. It cost them an opportunity to win the game on a prayer, but that is not the point — the referees failed to make a call, they failed to do their job, and it affected the outcome of the game. I was pissed. Everyone in my twitter feed was pissed. The folks on press row were in shock that no call was made.

But the head coach of the team at the wrong end of the call — the guy most affected by the ref’s ineptitude — came into the press conference and more or less said “whatever, everyone makes mistakes.”

I’m sure the sentiment will be different for whatever unlucky assistant heads out for “a few cold ones” with Rice tonight, but the point still stands.

It takes some serious restraint not to blast the officials that end your season too early. And Rice deserves to be commended for it.

For the Rutgers seniors, this is a difficult way to end their careers. Nothing was expected of this team, but they bought into what their new head coach was saying. They fought hard. They pulled off a couple of upsets. They won a game in the Big East tournament. And while their season and career comes to a disappointing close (they are under .500, so they are not eligible for a postseason tournament, according to Rice), this team is not exactly disappointed.

“I can’t even be mad at how the game ended because of how hard we fought,” James Beatty said.

Its a shame that the refereeing is what has taken center stage talking about this game, because it overshadows what was another terrific finish in the Big East Tournament.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Kansas/Oklahoma rematch highlights a fun day of hoops

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) and forward Perry Ellis (34) go to the floor with Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard, back, during the first overtime of an NCAA college basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. Kansas defeated Oklahoma 109-106 in triple overtime. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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GAME OF THE NIGHTNo. 6 Kansas at No. 3 Oklahoma, 2:30 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview.

The rematch we’ve all been waiting for will happen on Saturday.

A little more than a month after Buddy Hield burst onto the national scene with 46 points in a triple-overtime thriller — thriller doesn’t do it justice, that was one of the best college basketball games of all time — the Jayhawks will may their return trip to Norman to take of the Sooners. Only the circumstances of Saturday’s showdown will be a little bit different than what they were on that Monday night in January, when the No. 1 team in the AP poll squared off with the No. 1 team in the Coaches poll.

Oklahoma is no longer the No. 1 team in the country, as they’ve gone just 3-2 in their last five games while needing last-second game-winners to hang on against LSU and Texas during that stretch. But Kansas is not longer ranked at the top of the polls either, as the Jayhawks have managed just a 2-3 record in the Big 12 away from Phog Allen Fieldhouse, with those two wins coming against TCU and Texas Tech. They needed to beat West Virginia on Tuesday night just to ensure that this game would feature two teams sitting at the top of the Big 12 standings.

And that, at the end of the day, is going to be the most important takeaway from this game. Kansas plays four of their last seven Big 12 games on the road, and three of those road trips are against top 25 teams. Oklahoma? They have four road trips left as well, but they will be paying visits to Texas Tech and TCU during that stretch. That’s what makes the result of this one so important. Oklahoma, with a win, would put themselves in the driver’s seat for the Big 12 title race, and with a (road) game left against West Virginia — the third team tied for first in the league — they would control their own title destiny.

Before I move on, there’s one other interesting point that needs to be made here. When these two teams last played, Hield and Kansas guard Wayne Selden both looked like Big 12 Player of the Year candidates. Since then, Hield has emerged as the clear favorite for National Player of the Year, Selden has fallen off the map. It’s been 10 games since these two last faced off. Selden blew up for 33 in the win over Kentucky, but in the other nine games, he’s averaging just 9.9 points; he’s scored a total of 21 points in three games since beating Kentucky.

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 24 Texas at No. 14 Iowa State, 8:30 p.m.

The Longhorns are suddenly looking like a legitimate Big 12 contender, which was not exactly expected to happen during Shaka Smart’s first season in Austin. The Cyclones, on the other hand, are trending in the opposite direction. They just lost at Texas Tech, they’re starting center (Jameel McKay) has been suspended for two games stemming from the way he’s behaved in practice and, even with McKay in the lineup, Iowa State is working with, essentially, a six-man rotation. So here’s the question: Will this game be the turning point in Iowa State’s season, or will Texas continue their assault on the top of the conference?

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. Duke seems to have righted the ship when it comes to their season. The Blue Devils have won three straight and four of their last five, including Monday’s win over No. 13 Louisville. They get a visit from a streaking No. 7 Virginia at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, a team that has gone from being atrocious on the road to blowing out Louisville and Pitt in their own buildings.

2. No. 5 Xavier was mollywhopped by Creighton on the road on Tuesday. Butler? They picked up a critical win for their bubble profile at Seton Hall on Wednesday. The two will square off in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

3. We’re going to find out a lot about the SEC power structure this weekend. At noon on Saturday, No. 22 Kentucky will travel up to Columbia to take on South Carolina, both of whom are sitting in a tie for first in the league standings. Just an hour later, No. 15 Texas A&M — who was the best team in the SEC but now sits a game out of first place — will trip to Baton Rouge to take on LSU. The Tigers? They’re right there with Kentucky and South Carolina, tied for first in the conference.

4. The bottom-line is this: Gonzaga will not be receiving an at-large bid to the tournament if they do not win at No. 16 SMU on Saturday. Tip is at 10:00 p.m.

5. There are two games that will be featured on NBCSN on Saturday: James Madison at UNC-Wilmington (3:00 p.m.), Hofstra at Delaware (5:00 p.m.).

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Saturday afternoon.

OTHER TOP 25 GAMES

  • St. John’s at No. 1 Villanova, 8:00 p.m.
  • Wisconsin at No. 2 Maryland, 6:30 p.m.
  • TCU at No. 10 West Virginia, 12:00 p.m.
  • No. 11 Oregon at Stanford, 4:00 p.m.
  • No. 13 Louisville at Notre Dame, 4:00 p.m.
  • No. 15 Texas A&M at LSU, 1:00 p.m.
  • No. 18 Purdue at Michigan, 2:00 p.m.
  • Georgetown at No. 20 Providence, 12:00 p.m.
  • Texas Tech at No. 21 Baylor, 8:00 p.m.
  • Northern Iowa at No. 25 Wichita State, 12:00 p.m.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • Wake Forest at N.C. State, 12:00 p.m.
  • Kansas State at Oklahoma State, 12:00 p.m.
  • Arkansas at Ole Miss, 12:00 p.m.
  • Georgia Tech at Clemson, 2:00 p.m.
  • Washington at Colorado, 2:00 p.m.
  • Tennessee at Missouri, 2:00 p.m.
  • East Carolina at Cincinnati, 4:00 p.m.
  • Ohio State at Rutgers, 4:00 p.m.
  • Alabama at Florida, 5:30 p.m.
  • Vanderbilt at Auburn, 6:00 p.m.
  • Saint Louis at VCU, 6:00 p.m.
  • Oregon State at Cal, 6:30 p.m.
  • Georgia at Mississippi State, 8:00 p.m.
  • Tulsa at UConn, 8:00 p.m.
  • Illinois at Northwestern, 8:00 p.m.
  • Creighton at Marquette, 8:00 p.m.

VIDEO: Monmouth hits a game-winner, Bench Mob member tries to disrobe

King Rice
AP
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Monmouth used a 17-2 run in the final minutes to beat Rider on Friday night, a win that will keep the Hawks within striking distance of the kind of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they fall in the MAAC tourney.

The run was capped by star point guard Justin Robinson, who buried this three with three seconds left to put Monmouth up for good, 79-78: