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BC 67, Ga. Tech 66

Sanders proves to be a go-to guy

Sophomore gives BC win over Tech

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / March 8, 2009
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If yesterday's 67-66 win over Georgia Tech is any proof, Boston College coach Al Skinner may be one of the few people who can see seven seconds on a clock and feel like he's got all day.

BC trailed, 66-65, after a reach-in foul by Rakim Sanders led to two clutch free throws from Tech guard Lewis Clinch. Skinner called a timeout to devise the perfect play, only he didn't like the one he came up with.

"He drew the play up, and he was like, 'Nah, I don't want to run that,' and wiped it off the board," said Eagles captain Tyrese Rice.

Meanwhile, one of the officials was telling Skinner to get his team back on the floor.

"A lot of the younger guys are sitting around like, 'Hold on. What's going on? What are we running?' " said Rice. "[Skinner's] like, 'Don't worry, we've got another 30 seconds.' I'm like, 'Another 30 seconds, hell.' "

The last thing Skinner said was, "Take your time and get a good shot. And if you don't have it, we have another timeout and we can still run a pretty good play with two seconds."

Sanders was as dumbstruck as anybody, but he was getting the ball, which was all he needed to know.

"A lot of times with the clock winding down, I'm always yelling, 'Let me get the ball,' " said Sanders, a sophomore who already had a winning tip-in against Virginia Tech Jan. 31. "So I was happy to have it."

Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt was banking on Rice getting the ball. Rice already had hit a pair of free throws that looked like game-winners until the reach-in. But the senior guard was just a decoy.

Sanders received the inbounds pass and tried to drive right, but Tech's Iman Shumpert and Gani Lawal refused to let him get to the lane. Sanders drifted to the baseline and pulled up for a shot from an angle that appeared to be behind the backboard.

"I was watching it from directly under the basket," Rice said. "Like looking straight up through the rim. It didn't look like it was going in. It just kept floating, kept rising. Once I saw it go through, it was like a relief. He did it again."

Conte Forum erupted. Skinner looked like he had planned it.

"The person that we wanted to have the ball got the ball," he said.

Sanders finished with a game-high 19 points and Rice 17 (including 12 of 12 free throws) as the Eagles fended off an onslaught of dunks and clutch shots led by Lawal (16 points, seven rebounds).

The Eagles improved to 21-10 overall, 9-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference going into this week's conference tournament, which starts Thursday in Atlanta. And in terms of the NCAA Tournament, Skinner said, "9-7 makes me very comfortable."

Skinner already had felt gratified with getting a 20-win season out of a team picked to finish 11th in the conference.

"I understand why we were picked 11th," he said. "But that doesn't mean that I or we have to believe that. This team is much better now than we were in November or December. That's where you want to be."

After being down, 30-25, at halftime, Georgia Tech (11-18, 2-14) scrapped to make it a seesaw second half, taking a 64-63 lead when Lawal spun off his defender and banked in a short fallaway, then going up again after Rice's free throws when Clinch hit his.

To seal the game, Hewitt thought all his team had to do was contain Rice for one play.

"We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish," Hewitt said, "keeping the ball from Tyrese Rice's hands."

Skinner saw the final sequence differently. After four years with his coach, Rice said he wasn't surprised.

"I feel like if that was the national championship game," said Rice, "he would have done the exact same thing."

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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