SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—A frantic comeback. A few clutch free throws. A couple of overtimes. The only thing missing was an upset, though it was hard to argue with Boston College’s formula for revving up the madness in this year’s NCAA tournament.
Baldheaded BC got the first tournament thriller out of the way in an early game Thursday, a double-overtime 88-76 victory that derailed scrappy Pacific and the Maraker Express.
“People look forward to having the underdog come up and win,” BC guard Louis Hinnant said. “Fortunately, we didn’t allow that to happen.”
Not for lack of trying.
The final overtime was anticlimactic, but the fourth-seeded Eagles (27-7) made this one very interesting for the first 45 minutes against the 13th-seeded Tigers and their star, Christian Maraker.
The Eagles trailed by six early in the first overtime. They rallied and needed a pair of free throws from Craig Smith, a 66 percent shooter, with 4.3 seconds left to tie it.
Earlier, with 9 seconds left in regulation, Maraker took advantage of a defensive breakdown and hit an open 3-pointer to tie the game at 65—a shot the Pacific fans were cheering even before it left his hands. That capped a Pacific comeback from 13 points down.
“I thought we have a veteran club and we made a very big mistake there,” coach Al Skinner said. “We were fortunate to overcome that.”
On Saturday, Boston College will play Montana in the second round of the Minneapolis regional.
The Eagles advanced by holding Maraker (30 points, nine rebounds) scoreless in the two overtimes, preventing the Tigers (24-8) from advancing to the second round for the third straight year.
“I thought this was the first game all year we deserved to win and didn’t,” Pacific coach Bob Thomason said.
It certainly wasn’t hard to see the Eagles sweat their way through this one.
Their heads were glistening, due to Hinnant’s suggestion—made in jest— that the Eagles shave their heads before the game. Surprisingly, the idea caught on.
“I really love my hair, but I had to do it,” Hinnant said. “The rest of the team did it and I can’t let my teammates down.”
Next, the Eagles will work on Jared Dudley, the dreadlocked forward who was the only teammate not to submit to the razor.
“Him putting so many years into grooming that style, I don’t think he’s going to cut it,” Hinnant said.
Dudley had 23 points, including a 3-pointer that, umm, shaved BC’s deficit to 74-72 in the first overtime.
Smith led the Eagles with 25 points and 13 rebounds. Tyrese Rice opened the second overtime with an alley-oop pass to Sean Williams for a dunk, then followed with a 3-pointer—his only bucket of the game—to help Boston College start pulling away.
“We were fortunate to have a number of individuals on this team who want the ball, and when they get the ball in their area, they’re going to take it,” Skinner said.
Pacific had a couple nice looks early in the second overtime, but Maraker and Johnny Gray each had 3-pointers rim out. By the time the Big West Conference champs scored, they were trailing by nine with 1:45 left—playing out the string in an otherwise taut, exciting game.
The Eagles were none too pleased about being sent on a 2,300-mile trek to Utah to play a game that started at 10:40 a.m. local time against a team that had knocked off Pitt and Providence in the opening round of the last two tournaments.
And for a few moments, it looked like the runners-up in last weekend’s Atlantic Coast Conference tourney were headed for a long trip home.
Mike Webb opened the first overtime with a pair of 3-pointers to put Pacific ahead 71-65. BC pulled within two, but Gray (16 points) answered with another 3 to make it 74-69. After Dudley’s 3, Michael White barely grazed the rim on Pacific’s next possession. Then, the Eagles worked it to Smith, who drew some minor contact inside against Maraker and went to the line for the tying free throws.
Thomason hated to see the game decided like that.
“I don’t want to get fined or anything, but it’s a call you don’t see much in college basketball,” he said.
As the second overtime wore on and it became clear this would be Maraker’s last college game, the small Pacific fan base got its point across—yelling “overrated” to the BC players who had to work hard against the team from Stockton, Calif.
Dudley just looked over and laughed, though the point had been made. The Eagles failed to take control of the game until the very end against a team that was physically outmatched.
“I think collectively, we got together and understood this could be our last few minutes,” Hinnant said. “We just tried to give whatever we had left.”