No. 6 Boston College 65, No. 9 Syracuse 60

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BOSTON (AP)—Jared Dudley threw the ball in the air and let out a triumphant yell. Before long, the Boston College student body would join him on the court.

Dudley scored 21 points before dribbling out the final seconds in the sixth-ranked Eagles’ 65-60 victory over No. 9 Syracuse on Saturday, setting loose a storm of students who charged the court to celebrate one of the most anticipated matchups in school history.

“I’ve never had that here,” said Craig Smith, BC’s Big East player of the year candidate, who had 16 points and 15 rebounds. “It didn’t surprise me because I got here two hours before the game and people were going crazy.”

Jermaine Watson went 5-of-6 from the free throw line down the stretch for BC (22-1, 11-1), which opened a two-game lead over No. 18 Connecticut in the conference. Syracuse (22-5, 9-4) and No. 17 Pittsburgh are another half-game behind BC, which is leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

“It ain’t over,” BC coach Al Skinner said. “We were still going to be in first place if we lost, but it gave us a chance to create a little more space at the top. This is a big win for us.”

Gerry McNamara scored 18 points for Syracuse, but he missed three 3-pointers in the final 28 seconds—two of them airballs—and went 2-for-11 from beyond the arc overall. The Orange have lost four of their last six games, all to ranked teams.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim snickered about the Conte Forum crowd charging the court, something usually reserved for big upsets.

“I thought they were ranked sixth in the country,” he said sarcastically. “Maybe they just think we’re better than we are.”

A hockey school which has always been slow to get excited about its revenue sports, Saturday’s game attracted some rare attention from the student body and the Boston fans still basking in the Patriots’ success and eager for the Red Sox to start a new season.

The usual rivalry with Syracuse became more intense when BC said in 2003 that it would leave the Big East for the ACC, which courted the Orange but did not invite them. Syracuse extracted its revenge with a 43-17 victory in football last fall that knocked the Eagles from a lucrative Fiesta Bowl bid to the Continental Tire Bowl.

With both basketball teams holding top-10 rankings, the game sold out quickly, tickets were being scalped at many times face value and fans were lined up at both sides of the arena before the game, waiting for the gates to open.

“They were predicting it would be the biggest game in Conte’s history,” Watson said. “We just have a huge target on us. We’re on top of the hill.”

The Eagles held a 58-52 lead with 1:15 left when Louie McCroskey hit a 3-pointer to put Syracuse within one possession. But Nate Doornekamp turned Hakim Warrick away with 56 seconds left and Dudley came away with the ball.

Warrick, Syracuse’s conference player of the year candidate, finished with 12 points.

Dudley made two free throws to make it 60-55. McNamara shot a 3-pointer, but the rebound went out of bounds back to Syracuse and he hit the next one to make it a two-point game.

Watson made one of two free throws and McNamara fired up another from far beyond the arc—an airball that Josh Pace caught and put back to make it 61-60 with 27 seconds left. Watson hit two more free throws, but McNamara threw up another airball and it took the Orange 8 seconds to foul.

With Dudley waving his arms to encourage a crowd that didn’t need it, Watson hit two more free throws to make it 65-60.

McNamara had another 3-point try in the final seconds that went off the front of the rim.

Tempers flared with 1:03 left in the first half when Doornekamp shoved Warrick after a rebound; more pushing led to a technical foul. McNamara made two free throws and then Pace hit a jumper to turn BC’s 27-25 lead into a 29-27 halftime deficit.

But BC scored the first seven points of the second half during a 12-2 run that gave the Eagles an eight-point lead. They pushed it to 44-35 on Dudley’s 3-pointer from the left side with 12:54 to go.

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7-15,  14 Pts
6 Rebs, 5 Assists
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C. Smith C. Smith
5-13,  16 Pts
15 Rebs, 0 Assists

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