BC Beats Heels Again

Craig Smith

Behind a combined 44 points from Craig Smith and Jared Dudley, the Boston College Eagles beat North Carolina to advance to the finals of their first-ever ACC Tournament.

ACC Tournament Semifinals: Boston College vs. North Carolina

BC shot the lights out of the Greensboro Coliseum, hitting 61% of their shots and holding off a late Tar Heel rally to claim an 85-82 victory.

Smith followed up a near triple-double in the quarterfinals with 23 points, 15 rebounds, and four assists. The All-ACC First Teamer scored at will Saturday afternoon, hitting 11 of his 16 shots. His inside game that pounded Carolina's forwards was complemented by Dudley's versatility on the perimeter. The junior forward scored 21 points on 8-11 shooting, including 3-5 from behind the arc.

While Carolina shifted their attention on the defensive end to stopping the Eagles' two leading scorers, Sean Marshall and Tyrese Rice stepped up in a big way. Marshall, who averaged 12 points a game during the regular season, scored 14 by moving without the ball all afternoon, creating easy layup opportunities and open threes. Rice, the freshman spark plug off the bench, had 10 points on 3-7 shooting. As far as the Eagles were concerned, he couldn't have picked three more important field goals to make.

After BC secured a rebound with five seconds to play in the first half, Al Skinner gave Rice a chance to erase a 42-40 Carolina lead. Rice answered by draining a three from beyond NBA range at the buzzer. The shot gave the momentum back to BC, who ended the half on a 6-0 run. It also placed them in a comfortable situation: the Eagles entered the game having won 20 of 21 games when leading at halftime.

Rice's next three was a late dagger for North Carolina. With 2:05 to play in the game and the Eagles holding onto a six-point lead, Rice received a pass from Craig Smith in the corner and nailed an open trey. A minute and a half later, after the Tar Heels cut the nine-point lead down to five, Rice put them away for good with a tip-in off his own miss. The seven-point lead Rice's shot gave BC was ultimately insurmountable for Carolina, who could only get within three points before time ran out.

BC might have strung together their two best games of the year in back-to-back days. After dominating Maryland for 40 straight minutes, the Eagles executed their offense flawlessly against a young and inexperienced North Carolina team. They answered a barrage of three-pointers from the Tar Heels with high-percentage shots from Smith and Dudley that consistently deflated Carolina's hopes for a major run. They even responded well to an unusually up-tempo pace by taking advantage of turnovers and converting points in transition.

The Eagles, as well they have played in their first two tournament games, need to save their best for last. Awaiting BC in the title game is the conference's regular season champions, the Duke Blue Devils. Duke has owned this tournament over the past decade: they're making their ninth straight appearance in the finals and are hoping to claim their seventh title in eight years.

The Eagles will see it as the ultimate opportunity to make a name for themselves in the ACC. They also will be looking for a little bit of revenge. Duke beat BC at Chestnut Hill back on February 1st by only two points in an emotionally charged game. Smith, who has recorded two-straight double-doubles, was held to just eight points before fouling out in the first meeting. Dudley, on the other hand, scored a season-high and matched J.J. Redick with 28 points on 10-14 shooting. The matchup on Sunday will feature a clash of three of the conference's best players: Smith, Redick, and Shelden Williams were all selected to this year's All-ACC First Team.

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BC will tip-off against the North Carolina Tar Heels at 4 PM Eastern time on Saturday.

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