WORCESTER, Mass. (AP)—The first half was for the milestone. The second was for the victory.
Craig Smith had just two points at halftime—struggling to reach the 2,000-point milestone—before finishing with 19 points and a career-high 17 rebounds Tuesday night as No. 21 Boston College recovered from his slow start to beat Holy Cross 63-53.
Smith came into the game with 1,998 career points and needed four first-half free throws to reach the milestone. But he added 17 points and 12 rebounds in the second, when the Eagles (13-4) used a 9-0 run to break open a 39-39 game.
“I knew I was going to get double-teamed, so I was just trying to be patient,” said Smith, the school’s first preseason All-America selection. “In the second half, I was like, ‘Hey, I’m not scoring. I might as well get some rebounds. It was kind of frustrating, but in the back of my mind I knew it was going to open up.”
Smith is one of five BC players to top 2,000 points, joining Troy Bell, Dana Barros, Bill Curley and Danya Abrams. Only Curley and Abrams also had 900 rebounds in their careers.
“We haven’t finished yet,” BC coach Al Skinner said. “But not only has he scored a lot of points, he’s accumulated a lot of wins. To me, that’s clearly more important than the points scored.”
Jared Dudley scored 12 to keep the Eagles in the game until they could unleash Smith. Kevin Hamilton scored 17 with seven rebounds and six steals for the Crusaders (9-9) while second-leading scorer Keith Simmons had just two points in 23 minutes because of cramps.
“I thought we did a good job on Craig in the first half,” Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard said. “When Simmons goes out, that was the turning point in the game. It’s pick your poison. We can’t guard Dudley in the post, and nobody can guard Craig in the post.”
Torey Thomas had 16 points for Holy Cross, following some great dribbling by making a 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer to tie the score at 39 with 12:38 left.
But BC scored the next nine points, with Tyrese Rice making a pair of free throws and then making a 3-pointer to give the Eagles a five-point lead. Colin Cunningham made a nice baseline move for Holy Cross but missed a layup, then Sean Williams hit a basket for Boston College.
Rice drew a charge on Thomas, who ran off the court to the locker room; he also had cramps, but returned.
That’s when the game turned sloppy. Williams missed a dunk on a putback, but Holy Cross botched an open alley-oop at the other end. In all, the Crusaders went 5:58 without a point.
Smith didn’t get his first basket until there was 6:18 left, making a baseline move for a layup. He followed that by converting a three-point play to make it 50-41 with 5:12 left, and he followed that by swatting one of Clifford’s shots over the Crusaders bench.
Holy Cross still holds a 57-52 edge in the series that began in 1921, but the Crusaders’ heyday of Bob Cousy and Tom Heinsohn has long since passed. Boston College has won 15 of the last 16 meetings against its cross-state rival.
BC won last year, 63-60 in overtime.
The game was moved from the on-campus Hart Center, which seats 3,600, to the larger DCU Center in downtown Worcester. But the crowd of 5,524 took longer to get into the game than Smith.