NCAA BK

Ref who left Big East tourney officiating in Indy

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP)

Two mistakes got referee Earl Walton and two of his colleagues to pull out of the Big East tournament.

It didn't keep Walton out of action for long.

On Friday, the veteran official called the Big Ten quarterfinal game between Michigan State and No. 9 Purdue, which the Spartans won 74-56.

Big Ten associate commissioner for men's basketball Rick Boyages explained that Walton was already slated to work the game before the controversy at New York's Madison Square Garden.

''He was assigned, and we honor our assignments,'' Boyages said in a statement.

Walton, Jim Burr and Tim Higgins voluntarily withdrew from the Big East tourney after league officials acknowledged the crew 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 over Rutgers on Wednesday. On Thursday, Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said the three officials had ''voluntarily withdrawn'' in ''the best interests of those involved.''

By Friday, Walton was back at his old job - in Indianapolis, avoiding controversy. Boyages wouldn't say if Walton would officiate other games in the tournament.

When Purdue coach Matt Painter got upset because Big Ten player of the year JaJuan Johnson was called for a personal foul with 17:55 to go, he began arguing.

But it was Gene Steratore, not Walton, who gave the Big Ten's coach of the year his first technical since league play began in late December.

Neither Michigan State coach Tom Izzo nor Purdue coach Matt Painter was concerned about Walton officiating the game.

''I didn't take any issue to it,'' Painter said. ''I thought he did a good job. We haven't had him this year but we've had him before and he's always done a good job. Like a lot of coaches have talked about, about that one situation, they made a mistake. You move on. You know, it's part of it. Good officials make mistakes.''

Izzo watched the play in the Rutgers-St. John's game and said Walton shouldn't be judged by a single incident.

''I had no problem with that personally because that whole end-of-the-game thing, it was strange,'' he said. ''You know, I mean, there were so many strange things that happened. I was more upset watching it on the foul maybe than the stepping out of bounds.''

Tagged: Purdue

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