BOSTON (AP)—Sean Williams swatted away two shots in just over a minute, and with them went any doubt whether Boston College is ready for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Craig Smith scored 17 points and Williams added the two skyscraping blocked shots on Tuesday night to lead the 11th-ranked Eagles past Massachusetts 91-62. It was their sixth straight victory in the Commonwealth Classic and their fifth win in a row overall since losing two straight.
“I think we’re rolling now,” said Sean Marshall, who scored 18 for BC (11-2). “We haven’t had our team together all year. The shots (Williams) blocked tonight were amazing.”
Playing in just his fourth game since returning from a suspension for a marijuana arrest, Williams had a crowd-pleasing follow-up dunk with 8:36 left for his only points of the game. But it was his first-half block of Rashaun Freeman that electrified the crowd and sparked BC to a 16-6 spurt that put the game out of reach.
“We had a little run after that. It picked up my team and gave them energy,” Williams said. “I believe we’re ready to go into the ACC and do pretty well. I’m in shape. I’ve just got to prove to (coach Al) Skinner that I’m ready to get the minutes I deserve.”
Jared Dudley and Tyrese Rice each had 14 points for the Eagles, who lost to Maryland in their only ACC game so far. They resume play in their inaugural season in the conference on Sunday at Georgia Tech.
“I’m ready to roll,” Smith said, “and see what the ACC is really about.”
Freeman had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Stephane Lasme had 12 and nine for UMass (5-5). The Minutemen open Atlantic 10 play at Duquesne on Saturday.
Williams played just 10 minutes before fouling out and had just the one basket and three rebounds. Most of the damage was done by Smith, who was named the ACC player of the week for two games in which he averaged 20 points and eight rebounds.
“He’s a physical beast who gets where he wants to get and does what he wants to do. We couldn’t do anything with him,” UMass coach Travis Ford said of Smith. “We’re moving on. I’m not spending too much time on that game.”
UMass players were not made available for 45 minutes after the game.
The Minutemen led 18-14 with 10:38 left in the first half before BC scored 13 of the next 15 points. Smith scored eight in the run, the last two after Williams picked Freeman’s shot out of the air and pinned it against the backboard.
After Freeman made a basket with 5:18 left, Rice hit a 3-pointer for BC. Williams blocked Jeff Viggiano at the other end and then Rice added another 3 to make it 33-22.
In all, BC outscored UMass 27-8 over the last 10:12 of the half.
A teammate of Julius Erving at UMass, Skinner’s No. 30 was retired when the Eagles played at Amherst in 2004.
BC and UMass, separated by about two hours, rarely played until the Commonwealth Classic was created in 1995. The Minutemen were led by NBA prospect Marcus Camby when they won the first game at the FleetCenter with then-Gov. Bill Weld looking on; UMass won the next four years as well.
But interest waned and after four years the game moved to campus sites. The Minutemen have also fallen on hard times and haven’t earned the state’s bragging rights since the 1999-2000 season.