Boston College 68, Southern Utah 65
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Southern Utah University coach Bill Evans said his Thunderbirds had to control Boston College's pressure, eliminate transition baskets and rebound defensively to have a chance of winning their first-ever NCAA Tournament game Thursday night.
The T-Birds did the first two, but the third one haunted them over and over — 30 times, to be exact — in their 68-65 loss to No. 10 Boston College at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.
Southern Utah (25-6) handled the full-court pressure so well that the Eagles called it off 10 minutes into the game.
SUU held the athletic Eagles to just one transition basket, but the Eagles' 30 offensive rebounds, which led to 29 second-chance points, killed the T-Birds.
"Obviously, the difference in the game was our inability to rebound the ball," Evans said after his team was outrebounded 52-35 overall.
The T-Birds led by six points at the half, 39-33, but allowed the Eagles, who shot only 32 percent for the game, 17 offensive rebounds in the second half in outscoring them by nine.
"We did what we have done all season — attack the glass," said Boston College senior forward Xavier Singletary. "We didn't shoot the ball real well, so there were a lot of rebounds to get. We wanted to get in there and get second shots and give us a chance to win."
All eight Boston College players who saw action got at least one offensive rebound, with Uka Agbai pulling down seven, but no rebound was bigger than the one sophomore sensation Troy Bell pulled down with 17 seconds left in the game.
Boston College was leading by a point, 66-65, 44 seconds left, and with the shot clock nearly gone, Singletary, who had 15 points, missed a 3-pointer, and Bell hauled in the rebound.
He was then fouled and made both free throws, giving Boston College the lead at three with 13 seconds left.
The T-Birds got the ball up court, and when they got into trouble without a chance to get off a shot, they called timeout with three seconds left.
The Boston College defense took Jeff Monaco out of the play, so SUU went to senior Justin Sant for the potential equalizer.
"My defender slipped a little bit, and I got a good look," Sant said. "It felt good when it left my hand, but it came up a couple of inches short."
The T-Birds, the Mid-Continent Conference champions, had the Big East Champions on the ropes in the first half because SUU senior Monaco was hot, and the T-Bird defense held Bell to just two points and the Eagles to just 10-of-32 shooting (2-of-17 3-pointers) for 31 percent.
Southern Utah led by as many as nine points when it went on a 14-6 run during a three-minutes stretch late in the half. Monaco, who finished with a game-high 26 points, had a pair of 3-pointers. House, who had 21 points in the game, had six points, and Sant had two, in that run.
SUU led 39-33 at the half before Bell took over, scoring 16 points in leading the Eagles (27-4) to the win.
"He's a good player. He knew he had another 20 minutes," Boston College coach Al Skinner said.
"I really had no other choice," Bell said. "I knew in order for us to win I had to put it (my game) in order."
The Eagles tied the score on two different occasions and Bell, with one of his three 3-pointers, gave Boston College its first lead of the half with just over 13 minutes to play.
Boston College went on to lead by as many as six, when the T-Birds had a five-minutes stretch when they scored just one point.
Monaco buried one of his six 3-pointers with just over eight minutes to go as the T-Birds took the lead, but they would only lead one more time, and that was with just under six minutes left when John Wheeler hit one of two foul shots.
SUU knotted the score at 63-63 on a Monaco 3-pointer with 1:35 left, but it wouldn't get any closer.
"Last year, we would have lost a game like this. We weren't mature," Bell said. "We didn't have any character."
The Eagles shot 33 percent from the field in the second half — and 32 percent for the game.
The T-Birds shot just 29 percent in the second half and 38.6 percent for the game.
"The defense in the second half in comparison to the first half was the difference in the ball game," Skinner said.
Countered Evans: "To our guys' credit, we could have rolled over but didn't."
Boston College, a No. 3 seed, advances to play Southern Cal, which beat Oklahoma State 69-54.