Eagles get past Stony Brook
Pitfall avoided in rescheduled game
Craig Smith grimaced when he fell into the press table, but got up to lead BC with 19 points in the Eagles 20th win. (Elise Amendola /Associated Press)
It was so different from the hoopla of two weeks ago. No fan frenzy, no Dickie V, no ESPN cameras telling the story to the world of college basketball. No big-time Atlantic Coast Conference feel to it. No television coverage of any kind, in fact.
But for coach Al Skinner's Boston College Eagles, it didn't really matter. It was business as usual, in a season that has steadily gotten better after a bumpy start in an ACC race that will pick up again Thursday night when Miami comes to Conte Forum for a visit.
Last night was supposed to be more like an early start to winter break as Stony Brook came to town. The nonconference encounter was a money game for Stony Brook, which resides in the low-rent America East, and a tuneup for the 13th-ranked Eagles, whose main goal right now is to stay among the top four teams in the ACC and get a first-round bye in next month's conference tournament.
Usually, such games are played in December, and the Eagles had slated this as a pre-Christmas game, but Stony Brook had a scheduling problem and asked if it could be moved.
BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo and the basketball staff studied the calendar and slipped in Stony Brook as a pre-Valentine sweetener.
Whether the Eagles could have better spent the time resting for the stretch drive is debatable. Skinner could have gotten down to shirts and skins during practice. He might have gotten more passion from his team and from the 4,137 who showed up and provided tepid support.
But in the often strange world of the NCAA Tournament, where wins are wins, knocking off a Stony Brook as the Eagles did, by a 59-47 count, probably was just as good.
In a performance hardly worthy of its newly minted ranking, BC (20-5) huffed and puffed and was finally able to blow the Seawolves away in the final two minutes with an effort that will probably be forgotten by the time they tip off against Miami.
BC led by 7 at the half, but the advantage shrank to 4 with 8:48 left and was as slim as 6 in the final two minutes before Craig Smith (game-high 19 points) & Co. pulled away.
The effort left Skinner relieved that the Eagles had gotten past a game almost no one seemed to want to play.
''There's no question they were probably thinking more about the Beanpot than the basketball game," joked Skinner. ''Overall, we did what we had to do."
Skinner saw what everyone else saw: a BC team that was much better than Stony Brook but played only as hard it needed to to win.
There was, said Skinner, ''no sense of urgency," and he pointed out that the Eagles have been credited for being a smart team but it worked against them in terms of knowing they were facing a last-place America East team.
''A real tough game," said Smith, who had to deal with an injured right thumb, which affected his foul shooting (9 of 16) more than anything else. ''It was hard to get up for the game."
The Eagles -- and Smith -- did what they had to do when they had to do it. With 8 minutes remaining and BC holding only a 38-34 lead, they responded with a 10-2 burst, led by Smith's power moves underneath. And that's the way it went until the end of the game, which couldn't come fast enough for the Eagles.
''It's past us now," said Smith. ''It's time to think about Miami."
Skinner couldn't agree more.
''It could have been worse," said Skinner. ''We could have lost. Let's move on. It's over."