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Red-hot Eagles soar into semis

3/12/2004

NEW YORK -- On a day when Boston College never made an
outside shot and had 10 shots blocked inside, the Eagles still
found a way to beat defending national champion Syracuse.

BC trailed by as many as 11 points and never led until the final
minute when four straight free throws by Jared Dudley and two by
Craig Smith sealed a 57-54 victory over the Orangemen (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP) on
Thursday in the Big East quarterfinals.

The Eagles, who won their seventh straight to improve to 23-8,
will face No. 6 Pittsburgh in Friday night's semifinals. The
Panthers, the top seed in the tournament, beat Virginia Tech 74-61
in Thursday's first game.

Syracuse (21-7), ranked 19th and seeded No. 4 after beating
Pitt, West Virginia and Connecticut in the final week of the
season, led from the start, extending it to as many as 11 points on
the long-range shooting of Gerry McNamara, who hit four 3-pointers.

By contrast, BC missed all nine of its 3-point attempts but kept
working inside against Syracuse's 2-3 zone.

"Anytime you have front court players like we have, you always
have to show some patience on the offensive end," coach Al Skinner
said. "That was important for us. We showed some patience and it
paid off. We were focused on attacking the interior of the zone."

The strategy paid off as Smith, Uka Agbai and Dudley flourished
under the basket. BC outrebounded Syracuse 41-27.

"Offensive rebounding was probably the biggest thing for us,"
Skinner said. "We had to make up for their 3s."

"We just tried to get it inside and see what's going on from
there," said Smith, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds.

"They just killed us on the backboards in the second half,"
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "That was the difference in the
game."

Trailing from the start, BC hung around on the strength of
Smith's inside game and finally caught the Orangemen at 51 on a
three-point play by Jermaine Watson with 2:51 remaining.

McNamara responded with a conventional 3-pointer to restore the
lead at 54-51. But the Orangemen never scored again.

Freshman Terrence Roberts missed a stuff that would have made
the lead five points and BC took advantage after that from the foul
line. Dudley hit a pair with 1:33 to play and then two more with
37.5 second left for a one-point lead.

After Hakim Warrick missed a shot, Smith was fouled but missed
both free throws with 20 seconds remaining. Warrick misfired again
and Smith was fouled on the rebound. This time, he converted both
free throws.

With 6.1 seconds left, McNamara tried one more 3-pointer for the
tie, but it bounced off the rim.

"They made the plays at the end and we didn't," Boeheim said.

Dudley and Agbai had 13 each. McNamara topped Syracuse with 15.