Eagles crash state's party

Published March 12, 2006

GREENSBORO, N.C. - Boston College senior forward Craig Smith had just outhustled North Carolina players to the basketball one final time and strolled toward the small, but vociferous pocket of Eagles fans, smiling broadly.

"I just had a little celebration," he said.

Why not?

He and his teammates had just sent a shock wave up and down Tobacco Road by shooting a blistering 61 percent and beating the Tar Heels to the ball at the most critical of moments for an 85-82 win in the ACC tournament semifinals Saturday at the Greensboro Coliseum.

The No. 11 Eagles are newcomers to the ACC this season, so you can bet the partisan Tar Heel crowd among the 23,745 fans - the ones not celebrating with Smith - were left wondering two things.

What happened to that rematch with archrival Duke in today's final?

And who the heck invited these guys to the league in the first place?

"I don't think we're crashing their party," Boston College coach Al Skinner said. "We're all a part of a new league. You might as well get used to this. There are some new people in town and you're going to hopefully welcome us with open arms. I'm not talking about just BC, but Miami and Virginia Tech. This league has evolved and hopefully we bring some credibility to it and people will appreciate the quality of basketball that we're playing and those other two schools are playing, too."

For anyone but a UNC fan, it was entertaining to see the third-seeded Eagles (26-6) parlay their torrid shooting from inside and outside, and their aggressiveness in going for rebounds, into a 14-point lead late in the second half.

But the second-seeded and No. 10-ranked Tar Heels (22-7), riding an eight-game winning streak, rallied behind inspired play from freshman center Tyler Hansbrough (23 points), senior forward David Noel (18) and junior forward Reyshawn Terry (17 despite foul trouble) and cut the deficit to four.

With the crowd on its feet, urging a defensive stop, the Heels seemingly got it when senior point guard Louis Hinnant shot an air ball on a 3-pointer. BC junior forward Jared Dudley (21 points), however, saved it off Terry to retain possession with two seconds on the shot clock.

On the inbounds play, Hinnant fed Smith for an uncontested layup and an 80-74 lead with 2:51 left.

How'd that happen?

"That's not for public knowledge," Skinner chimed in before Smith might give away a set play.

Noel said he told his players they would switch on every screen, but apparently not everyone got the message. So, he left Smith to get someone else and "Craig just ran to the goal."

"You can't make those kind of mistakes," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "Two seconds on the shot clock and they get a dang layup. You just can't do those kind of things."

With 1:01 left, Dudley missed a free throw but Smith yanked the ball from Noel and Hansbrough to run more time. Moments later, freshman guard Tyrese Rice, who hit a long 3 at the buzzer for a 43-42 halftime lead, missed a shot in the lane but got his rebound and tapped it in for an 85-78 lead.

Finally, Smith (23 points) grabbed the last of his 15 rebounds when Rice missed a free throw with 2.7 seconds to deprive UNC of a length-of-the-court heave that could have forced overtime.