Pollard’s 3-pointer propels Northeastern’s basketball team over BU in season opener

NU 65
BU 64

Demetrius Pollard made only four 3-pointers in 18 attempts last season as a freshman on the Northeastern men’s basketball team.

The fifth trifecta proved to be the biggest of Pollard’s career.

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It came with less than a second left Friday night and lifted NU to a rousing 65-64 victory over crosstown rival Boston University in both teams’ season opener before a Matthews Arena crowd of 3,242.

Ten seconds after senior cocaptain Joel Smith had fouled out after scoring a game-high 20 points, Pollard got free on Reggie Spencer’s screen and splashed the nets with a wide-open trey with 0.7 seconds left.

“We talk all the time about everybody has a chance to contribute and win a basketball game along the way,’’ said NU coach Bill Coen. “But I just didn’t know it was going to be opening night.’’

Pollard’s winning shot triggered a wild celebration as Pollard, a 6-foot-2-inch, 200-pound sophomore guard from Virginia Bech, Va., was swarmed by teammates, coaches, students, and the pep band.

“It was a great feeling — a great feeling,’’ said Pollard, who scored just 1 other point on the night. “I had some family here, my sister was here, and just to see her jumping up and down beside me, I was like, ‘Wow!’ ”

Pollard’s heroics produced a different reaction on BU’s bench, where coach Joe Jones watched his team suffer a stinging setback after getting a team-high 18 points from junior guard D.J. Irving and an unlikely 3-pointer from sophomore forward Malik Thomas (13 points, 7 rebounds) that gave BU a 63-62 lead with 1:10 remaining.

“Once it left his hand, I just put my head down,’’ Jones said. “It looked good from the start.’’

It was a gut-wrenching finish for the Terriers, who led by as many as 10 points in the first half, 27-17, after fashioning a 17-7 run.

Irving, the mercurial 6-foot, 165-pound junior guard from Chester, Pa., scored 10 first-half points as BU seized control at intermission, 35-26.

But the Huskies were still hanging around thanks in large part to Spencer (18 points, 7 rebounds).

“I thought he was a stabilizing factor, particularly in the first half,’’ Coen said. “He kept us in the game and I thought it was his energy on the backboard that really gave us the anchor to begin our comeback.’’

After the Terriers led by as many as 6 in the second half (46-40) on Nathan Dieudonne’s 3-pointer with 11:39 in the second half, Smith kickstarted the Huskies with his aggressive foul-inducing moves to help NU get into the double bonus with 11:18 to go.

Smith hit a 3-pointer that helped the Huskies tie, 48-48, with 8:08 to go. The teams fought for the lead down to the final 10.7 seconds when Smith fouled out of the game. NU ran a final inbounds play for Pollard, who, despite missing a wide-open trey earlier, was rewarded when Coen called his number.

“If we’re going to do this, particularly in the absence of Jon Lee [who will miss six weeks with an injured ankle], it’s going to have to be as a team,’’ Coen said. “There’s going to have to be a ‘Hero to be named later’ each and every night and that’s why everybody has to stay ready, stay positive, and try to get better each and every day.’’