When this NCAA semifinal was over, after Villanova had dissected Memphis State's offense and defense for a 52-45 victory, the losing Tigers had gained little respect for the Big East Conference's third-place team.

"St. John's or Georgetown will whip them to death," said reserve forward Willie Becton.

"Give us three different referees, we'll go out and beat them right now," said forward Baskerville Holmes.

"They're in the Big East Conference, where they play aggressively, and they shoot 26 free throws and we shoot nine," said point guard Andre Turner.

In general, the players in a very, very quiet Memphis State locker room -- those who stopped crying long enough to talk -- thought the officials called touch fouls on them, but let Villanova play more aggressively. They claimed it affected second-half rebounding. In the first half, Villanova was outrebounded, 22-11; in the second half, the Wildcats held a 16-11 advantage.

"(The officials) let them play at their end," Holmes said. "Why didn't they let us play on our end?"

"They called it at one end," said Coach Dana Kirk. "That's why they shot 26 foul shots, and we shot nine."

William Bedford, the Tigers' 7-foot sophomore center, sat near the locker room door. His head was down. He stared at the floor, nervously fidgeting with sticks of chewing gum in his hands. A half-dozen reporters tried to ask him questions; he only shook his head.

He had committed a traveling violation, gotten a technical foul and committed what seemed to be a touch foul during a 6-minute 44-second span in which Villanova outscored the Tigers, 13-2, and all-America forward Keith Lee of Memphis State picked up three fouls and fouled out.

Lee, who declined to talk about the officiating, and Holmes fouled out of the game. Bedford had four fouls with 12:52 to play.

"If your big fellas are in foul trouble, it takes you out of the game," Holmes said, wiping away tears with a towel. "I feel like they called a very poor game. They called a lot of fouls on us they shouldn't have called, and they didn't call fouls on them they should have called."

But the Tigers stopped just short of saying the referees stole the game.

"You could see it wasn't one team dominating another team," said reserve center DeWayne Bailey. "It was the referees calling a (bad) game. I can't say that (the referees stole it), because it isn't true. But they did play a pretty big part in it. Some of the calls were petty, something blind men might do."

Bailey did have some praise for Villanova, though, mentioning two key factors in the Wildcats' victory -- their matchup zone defense and their ability to handle most of Memphis State's pressure defense.

"When we did get it inside, they trapped us real good," Bailey said, helping explain why the Tigers had to take outside shots and shot 38 percent for the game.

"And everybody on that floor can handle the ball well," he said, referring to Villanova's offense.

But Kirk had little praise for Villanova's defense.

"There isn't that much to their defense," he said. "They just do a lot of smart leaning inside. They advanced, and we didn't."