PITTSBURGH (AP)—Good thing for Boston College that backup forward Akida McLain was excited about playing what looked to be an easy-as-could-be game at Duquesne. Until Craig Smith took over late in the game, McLain looked to be the only Eagles player very enthused about playing.
Smith scored 21 points and held off a late Duquesne comeback bid by scoring on three consecutive Boston College possessions, leading the No. 13 Eagles to an 81-69 victory Tuesday night aided by McLain’s 17 points.
Sean Marshall added 13 points and Jared Dudley and reserve Tyrese Rice had 10 each to help the Eagles (9-2) win their third in a row, but it was McLain who got them going during a 16-4 run midway through the second half that built their lead to 15 points at 64-49.
“The nice thing for us was the way Akida played,” coach Al Skinner said. “This was clearly the best game in his career. He’s been doing it in practice, but this was the first time he got it done consistently in a game. We hope it’s something we can depend on and come to expect it from him.”
McLain played high school basketball in suburban Pittsburgh and was cheered on by 30 family members and friends, who made themselves heard in the crowd of 1,791. His strong play boosted the Eagles on a night their poor free throw shooting—11 of 25—prevented them from pulling away until late despite their obvious advantages in size and talent.
“There wasn’t much to talk about there,” Skinner of the poor shooting by a team that shoots nearly 70 percent from the foul line for the season. “It’s all about practicing and concentration, and when one or two guys start missing early it doesn’t seem like anybody can make them.”
McLain, a 6-foot-8 sophomore suspended for the first seven games this season for violating team rules, nearly equaled his previous season total of 19 points. McLain’s putback made it 52-45 after Dudley had a tipin and a driving layup, and McLain later added two free throws, a layup and a three-point play.
“I’m starting to get into a rhythm,” McLain said. “We’re one of the bigger games that Duquesne plays and they played with a lot of energy, but we pulled it out.”
Smith, who scored 30 points against Duquesne last season in an 88-70 victory, scored nine of his 11 points in the second half in the final 5:33 of play. His three consecutive baskets came in a span of 1 minutes, 14 seconds and made it 74-60 with 3:37 remaining.
“We started to run some stuff for him,” Skinner said.
Duquesne (2-7), which lost earlier this season to Arkansas-Pine Bluff at home by nine points and to Youngstown State by 21, led late in the first half at 28-26 and was down by only three points before McLain gave the Eagles a big lift.
McLain had scored in double figures only once previously this season, 11 against Texas Southern, and scored four each in the other two games he played. He averaged 3.9 points last season.
“I thought the kid played great,” Duquesne coach Danny Nee said.
Bryant McAllister led Duquesne with 17 points, but was held without a field goal while scoring all six of his points in the second half at the foul line. Keith Gayden added 15, DeVario Hudson 14 and Aaron Jackson 10 for Duquesne.
“We played them hard and played them well,” Hudson said. “We just ran out of gas.”
Boston College played in Pittsburgh almost annually during its years in the Big East, but this was its first game at Duquesne since Jan. 27, 1972. The Dukes played an Atlantic Coast Conference team at home for only the second time since they opened the A.J. Palumbo Center in 1988; the other game was an upset of then-No. 10 Florida State in 1992.
Duquesne has lost 17 consecutive games against ranked opponents since beating Xavier on Jan. 25, 1997.
The Dukes played without senior guard Jack Higgins for unspecified reasons. Higgins, who averages 9.3 points, was held out by coach Nee but apparently was not suspended. It is uncertain whether he will return this season.