No. 25 Boston College 75, No. 10 Connecticut 70

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)—Boston College opened its conference season in typical bruising Big East style.

The 25th-ranked Eagles, (12-0, 1-0 Big East), off to their best start in school history, outmuscled and outhustled Connecticut and won 75-70 before a hostile Hartford Civic Center crowd.

“We’re not going to let people come and beat on us. We’re going to put the beating on them,” forward Craig Smith said.

In foul trouble for most of the game, Smith made the most of his 16 minutes. The 250-pound forward scored 16 points including the game-winning free throw with 35 seconds left for Boston College, which joins the Atlantic coast Conference next year.

His teammate made up for his absence. Jared Dudley led the Eagles with 17 points and was able to penetrate the lane time and again against the much bigger frontcourt of 10th-ranked UConn (8-2, 0-1).

“Boston College came in and took the game away from us,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. “They play with a great deal of poise. Al (Skinner) does a great job making sure his kids play with a sense they’re going to win all the time.”

Josh Boone dominated inside for UConn with 18 points and 15 boards, but it was the Eagles’ frontcourt that would prevail on this night.

Although the Huskies outrebounded BC 44-40, the Eagles scored 23 second-chance points on just 14 offensive rebounds.

“They’re bigger, they’re longer, they’re athletic, but when it comes to banging I don’t think they want any part of that,” Smith said.

Neutralized in the first half by foul trouble, Smith played just six minutes and had two points. He made up for it in a hurry in the second. Nearly unstoppable, he scored 10 points in the first 5 1/2 minutes to help the Eagles rally from a seven-point halftime deficit.

“We are a great team with (Smith), but we’ve played enough games without him to know how to play,” BC coach Al Skinner said. “It was really a team effort. We moved the basketball, got the shots we wanted.”

The Eagles went up for good at 47-46 on a breakaway layup by Louis Hinnant and extended the lead to 10 over the next six minutes.

Boone brought the Huskies back, scoring seven points in a 13-6 run. UConn finally caught up with 56 seconds left when Rashad Anderson hit two of three free throws to pull even at 70. Smith was fouled on the next possession, sinking both shots to ice the game.

UConn had time for a comeback but point guard Marcus Williams threw the ball inside to a heavily guarded Charlie Villanueva and Dudley came up with the steal, was fouled and hit both shots with 21.7 left. It was one of a number of mental lapses by the defending national champs.

“I was focused on getting the ball to Charlie, and I wasn’t looking around at everybody,” Williams said. “I think Rashad was wide open in the corner, but I was too focused on getting the ball to Charlie.”

Anderson, UConn’s 3-point specialist, finished with 15 points.

With Smith out for most of the first half, UConn’s physical frontcourt—led by Boone and Villanueva—capitalized, outscoring the Eagles 16-6 in the paint and controlled the boards 23-18 in the half. The closely contested period featured six lead changes through the first 16 minutes.

The teams were nearly even from the floor, but after a spotty start from the foul line, the Huskies went 8-for-8 from the line in the final 3:44 and coupled with a 3-pointer by Denham Brown outscored the Eagles 13-4 to close out the half with a 37-30 lead.

It was the third win in 12 meetings at the Civic Center and first since 1987 for Boston College. What could be the final meeting between the teams ended on a disappointing note for Calhoun.

“This was the start of league play, neighborhood brawls,” he said. “I was excited about the game and I thought we were ready. We may have been ready physically, but we certainly weren’t ready mentally.”

UConn has dominated the series in the last 17 years, winning 28 of 31 meetings, but it’s unlikely they’ll meet in the future because of the bad feelings over the Eagles’ dealings with the ACC. The fans clearly made their feelings known, holding up farewell signs such as “Betrayal College.” Some in the sellout crowd of 16,294 sarcastically waved good riddance when the final buzzer sounded.

The Eagles didn’t notice—they were too busy celebrating.

“One league game is just as important as another whether it’s UConn, Syracuse or Rutgers,” Skinner said. “Maybe in March it will have some significance, but right now you’ve got to win as many games as you possibly can.”

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Boston Coll.
J. Dudley J. Dudley
5-14,  17 Pts
7 Rebs, 3 Assists
J. Boone J. Boone
4-8,  18 Pts
15 Rebs, 1 Assists

Team Stat Leaders