- Associated Press - Friday, March 18, 2011

Yes, it really was this season that Villanova was rolling and thinking about a Big East title. The Wildcats hit No. 5 in the poll. They were 16-1. They knocked off tournament-bound teams.

Then came the collapse. For the second year in a row.

Villanova’s 61-57 loss to George Mason in the East region Friday was the final dismal defeat of a second half full of them. The Wildcats end the season on a six-game losing streak. Their last win? Try an overtime victory Feb. 19 against DePaul, the team that finished last in the Big East.

“I’m glad I’m not a pro coach,” Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. “If I was a pro coach, I’d probably get fired for this season.”

Wright has no reason to worry about his job security. He might try to figure out why the Wildcats fell into a second-half swoon for the second straight season.

The Wildcats started 20-1 last year before a 2-5 finish to the regular season. They still earned a No. 2 seed in the tournament, but lost to Saint Mary’s.

Corey Stokes, Corey Fisher and Antonio Pena started their careers with trips to the round of 16 and the Final Four. The three seniors end them without escaping the tournament’s first weekend their last two years.

The trio took heat from fans and the media late in the season for their role in the collapse, but Wright stood by them to the end.

“They’ve had great careers, and they’ve handled themselves with just great dignity off the court and on the court,” Wright said. “They’ve battled to the last second.”


REF RETURNS: Jim Burr, one of the officials who withdrew from the Big East tournament after missing key late-game calls, was on the crew for the Arizona-Memphis game on Friday.

The game came down to the final 5 seconds, when Derrick Williams blocked a putback try by Memphis’ Wesley Witherspoon to seal Arizona’s 77-75 victory.

Memphis coach Josh Pastner hadn’t seen a replay, but his first impression was that the final sequence was officiated correctly.

“I thought actually Jim Burr reffed a good game. I have no problems with Jim Burr,” Pastner said. “I thought the crew was good. … I had no problems with Jim Burr reffing our game, and the bottom line is Arizona hit some shots late and they deserved to win.”

Burr has worked 16 Final Fours and seven national championship games. But in the closing 1.7 seconds of a 65-63 win by St. John’s over Rutgers, he and his crew failed to notice when a player traveled and stepped out of bounds. The Big East admitted the errors and the crew pulled out of the tournament.

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