SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP)—Sean Marshall heard the chants of “airball” when his free throw missed the rim. His next four shots silenced the crowd.
Irked by the fans, he scored Boston College’s next nine points on a free throw, two 3-pointers and a jumper to give the 13th-ranked Eagles a 20-point lead midway through the second half of Saturday’s 78-56 win over Rhode Island.
“The crowd got on me. That got me going,” Marshall said. “I wanted to prove I’m a better player than that.”
The 6-foot-6 swingman scored a season-high 21 points, Craig Smith added 20 and they combined for 26 of BC’s 40 second-half points. The Eagles (10-2) started very well in both halves and won their fourth straight game after consecutive losses to the only ranked teams they’ve played, Michigan State and Maryland.
“That’s the stuff that makes me look good,” BC coach Al Skinner said of his team’s success at the start of each half. “The guys came out focused.”
Rhode Island (6-5) lost for the fourth time in five games and was coming off a 67-41 loss at Houston, the fewest points scored by Jim Baron’s teams in 18 years as a college coach.
Dawan Robinson, the Rams’ top scorer, didn’t start because of a violation of team rules but led them with 19 points. He was their only player to score in double figures after no one did that against Houston.
The Eagles led 12-2 before Robinson entered the game with 3:52 gone. They held a 38-29 halftime lead then outscored the Rams 18-6 for a 56-35 advantage with 11:58 to play.
“It’s a great team,” Robinson said of BC. “We played some of our best basketball in the first half.”
He didn’t discuss what rule he violated but, “you’ve just got to be a man,” he said, “and suffer the consequences.”
Smith scored seven of the Eagles’ first nine points in the second half and Marshall scored their next 11, giving BC a 58-38 lead with 11:13 left.
“He got open looks and he can score,” Skinner said of Marshall.
With the lead at 66-47, Smith scored BC’s next six points, building it to 72-50 with 3:59 remaining.
“Coach was preaching to come out and match their intensity,” Smith said. “Obviously, we came out way more aggressive.”
The game was the first between the teams since March 24, 1992, when Skinner led Rhode Island to an 81-80 double-overtime victory in the second round of the NIT.
BC outshot Rhode Island 58 percent to 37 percent and the discrepancy was more pronounced in the second half—62.5 percent to 25 percent as the Rams went 9-of-36. The Eagles also moved the ball well with 20 assists compared to 12 for the Rams.
The Eagles went 16-of-20 from the free throw line after going 11-of-25 in their previous game. The Rams had only 10 free throws and made seven.
Rhode Island had nine turnovers in the first half and “you just can’t do that against good basketball teams,” Baron said.
Smith opened the second half with seven points in the first 5 minutes after scoring seven in the entire first half. His short jumper with 15:12 left gave the Eagles a 47-33 lead.
Then Marshall took over and gave BC its 58-38 lead.
After his two 3-pointers, Jimmy Baron followed with a 3-pointer for the Rams. Then Marshall came back with a foul line jumper for the 20-point lead.
Marshall, whose previous season high was 19, added four assists and four steals.
With 2:46 left in the game, Rhode Island’s Darrell Harris was helped off the court after colliding with Smith and hitting his head on the floor under BC’s basket. Baron said he suffered a mild concussion.
“I was very concerned, but he seems to be fine,” Baron said.
The Eagles have one more game, against Massachusetts on Tuesday, before getting into the bulk of their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule in their first season in the league. They don’t play No. 1 Duke, the only ACC team ranked above them, until Feb. 1.
“They’re playing with a lot of confidence. They know how to handle crowds,” Baron said.
Marshall certainly does.
“We pick each other up,” he said. “If one guy is having an off night, the other ones can step up.”