Boston College 85, Pennsylvania 65
CLEVELAND (AP)—The offense and the trash talk flowed. The self-doubt was gone, replaced by an almost-forgotten swagger.
Whatever ailed Boston College got fixed in a hurry.
The 14th-ranked Eagles emerged from a week of introspection and went back to dominating Thursday, rolling to an 85-65 victory over Pennsylvania in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
At every turn, Boston College (25-4) got back to playing like the team that didn’t lose a game until Feb. 8.
“We were very aggressive, we made shots,” said Craig Smith, who had 15 points and 13 rebounds. “It was kind of like how we started 20-0. I definitely feel we have our swagger back.”
Jared Dudley led a versatile attack with 18 points. The Eagles went 7-of-10 from behind the arc in the first half, when Penn drew in its defense, then passed inside for easy baskets and pulled away in the second.
Next up is Milwaukee-Wisconsin, which advanced to the second round of the Chicago Regional by upsetting Alabama 83-73 in the earlier game at Cleveland State.
On Saturday, Boston College will be going against its former mascot. Milwaukee’s Bruce Pearl failed to make the Eagles’ basketball team as a walk-on and filled in as the feathery mascot for one NCAA tournament game in 1981.
Penn (20-9) didn’t have a mascot for its big game. Instead, the Quakers came out with fashionable new blue-and-white shoes—a reward for making the tournament—and a determination to keep the arena rocking.
Boston College wasn’t in the mood for any messing around, not after what’s happened lately.
After the Eagles opened with those 20 straight wins, they closed with a 4-4 fade that included a first-game loss to West Virginia in the Big East tournament. Coach Al Skinner used the unexpected time off to fix a few things.
The first adjustment involved attitude. There would be no more coasting.
“We’ve got to prove ourselves every day,” said Dudley, who led five players in double figures.
Boston College’s defense held the Quakers to 33 percent shooting in the decisive first half, when the Eagles led by as many as 22. The only glaring flaw was the Eagles’ 19 turnovers, which allowed the Quakers to close in.
Penn made a run at the start of the second half behind Tim Begley, the Ivy League’s Player of the Year. He hit a long 3 to beat the shot clock, helping the Quakers cut the lead to 54-45.
“Just to be down by 20 at halftime, it’s kind of embarrassing,” said Begley, who finished with 19 points. “We talked to each other and said we deserve to be here.”
Boston College then concentrated on getting the ball inside to its towering front line for easy baskets or free throws—its usual method of attack—to deny the Quakers their first NCAA win since 1994.
“We were a little impatient,” Skinner said. “When we settled down and ran our offense, we got back to who we are and what we do.”
The arena was still buzzing from Milwaukee’s upset when the Eagles took the floor and made a statement.
Penn’s Ibrahim Jaaber thought he had a steal and breakaway layup in the opening minutes, but Sean Marshall ran him down and emphatically smacked the ball away as it left the willowy guard’s hand. Then, Marshall sidled up and talked a little trash as they headed up the court.
A few seconds later, Marshall made a 3-pointer from the left wing and yelled out, “C’mon now!”—more of a challenge than a celebration.
Skinner’s biggest concern vanished eight minutes into the game, when top reserve Jermaine Watson showed he could still hit shots despite stitches in his left hand. Watson needed the stitches after an altercation at his off-campus apartment over the weekend.
Watson missed several practices and was tentative with the hand during workouts Wednesday. It was taped heavily but didn’t seem to bother him Thursday — he made a three-point play off a fastbreak layup, then hit a pair of 3s from the top of the key that made it 29-16.
The Eagles were whole and in control.
- Boston College 85, Pennsylvania 65
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