BOSTON - Boston College, a team that has suffered through so many difficult losses this season, had a little something extra to play for Sunday and rallied for a victory that dropped Virginia right back on the NCAA tournament bubble.
A pregame ceremony that honored Bcton College assistant director of athletics for media Dick Kelley, who is suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease), helped fire the players up. And BC roared from behind in the closing minutes to pull out a 53-52 victory.
"This game was for Dick Kelley and the stuff he's done, and what we're doing is fun and games," BC coach Steve Donahue said after Joe Rahon's 3-pointer with 8.2 seconds left proved to be the game-winner. "I think all these guys are close to Dick and if we're going to go down, we're going to go down fighting in his honor for sure."
Kelley, a long-time fixture at the school, received a Most Courageous Award from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and then, as he has done all season, sat courtside in his wheelchair and watched arguably his team's biggest win of the season.
Down by 11 midway through the second half, the Eagles -- who have lost six ACC games by five points or less, two of them by one point -- trailed by eight with 4:26 left and by five with 2:16 remaining.
But the Cavaliers, coming off an upset of Duke for their 20th win, didn't score another field goal. When Joe Harris, who had 36 points against Duke, missed the back end of a 1-and-1 with 27 seconds left, BC had the ball and trailed by two.
Rahon was fouled on what became the winning the shot but missed the free throw. Virginia's Jontel Evans dribbled the ball all the way down the floor (coach Tony Bennett didn't call his last timeout), but lost the ball out of bounds with four-tenths of a second left. He probably didn't have time to score by that time anyway.
BC called timeout and Patrick Heckmann wisely threw the ball downcourt, where it was intercepted by Akil Mitchell, who hit a half-court shot that came too late.
It was the fourth league game and the sixth overall the Cavs have lost by six points or less, although this was the first of those they led in the final minute. It may have wiped out the Duke win in terms of NCAA selection. Virginia is 20-9 (10-6 in the ACC), and a loss to a BC team that is now 13-16 (5-11) doesn't look good on your resume.
"As I told our guys, you feel that agony - it's the old ABC (Wide World of Sports) commercial, the thrill of victory the agony of defeat," said Bennett. "You felt it (the thrill) on Thursday with an exhilarating win and all that excitement and you were so close to getting one.
"We didn't execute down the stretch, they made some plays and then you feel that agony that is there."
Trailing by a point a little more than two minutes into the second half, Virginia scored the next nine points to match the eight-point lead it had early in the game. But the Eagles, who eventually got down by 11, refused to go quietly, going on a 7-0 run to get right back in the game. Then, after Virginia went back up by eight, BC went on a 9-2 run to cut the lead to 51-50 with 1:10 left.
A hustle offensive rebound on the floor allowed the Cavaliers to keep the ball and Harris was fouled with 27 seconds left. He missed the back end and BC got the rebound. The Eagles called timeout in the frontcourt with 20.7 seconds remaining and Rahon wound up with the winner.
Rahon led the Eagles with 15 points, while fellow freshman guard Olivier Hanlan had 13 points and five rebounds. Mitchell had 16 points and eight rebounds, while Harris finished with 14.
Mitchell scored Virginia's last field goal, as BC rallied to get a split of the season series.
Bennett said he was worried about a bit of a letdown and even an 11-3 start didn't convince him it wasn't there. BC rallied in the first half, and Bennett thought his team was better after the break.
"I think they sensed that it was over," Donahue said.
NOTES: The loss cost Bennett a chance to even his ACC record at 32-32. ... There were an impressive number of Virginia fans in the crowd. ... Virginia closes its regular season at Florida State Thursday night and home against Maryland next Sunday. BC is at Clemson Tuesday and hosts Maryland next Sunday. ... Mitchell and Justin Anderson scored 16 points apiece in Virginia's win over BC the first time the teams met, but Anderson scored just three Sunday. Virginia shot 77.3 percent from the floor in the second half of that game, that number helping the Cavaliers come in for this game leading the ACC in field goal and 3-point field goal percentage. But they shot just 42.6 percent Sunday, despite going 7-for-15 from 3-point range. ... BC's Ryan Anderson had eight points and nine rebounds, and was also called for a flagrant elbow on an offensive foul. Justin Anderson missed one of the two free throws and his team lost by one.