SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Boston College found out what top-ranked
teams UCLA, DePaul and San Francisco learned in years past -- Notre
Dame isn't where undefeated teams want to play.
Colin Falls matched his career high with 23 points and Chris
Thomas added 19 points and nine assists as the Irish ended the
fourth-ranked Eagles' 20-game winning streak and handed them their
first loss of the season, 68-65 Tuesday night.
Boston College junior Craig Smith said the loss had nothing to
do with the pressure of trying to stay undefeated. The key was the
Irish caught the Eagles a little off guard with their zone defense,
then shot 51 percent themselves.
"They got us out of our offense because of their defense and
due to the fact they also were hitting shots," he said. "When
you're home, it's like that."
Eagles coach Al Skinner said the loss was disappointing, but
won't prevent the Eagles from accomplishing their goals.
"Being unbeaten, that's nice and all, but that's not our
goal," he said. "Our goal is to be as successful as we can in the
league. The fact of the matter is, we're in first place."
The Eagles (20-1, 9-1 Big East), playing their first game this
season on national TV, and top-ranked Illinois (24-0) were the only
unbeaten teams left in Division I. The Illini are alone now,
surviving a scare before beating Michigan 57-51 Tuesday night.
The Irish squandered an 11-point lead in the final 6 minutes at Syracuse (No. 7 ESPN USA/Today, No. 8 AP) on Saturday before losing 60-57. They held a 62-54
lead over Boston College, but the Eagles closed to 62-59 as Jared
Dudley made two free throws and then converted a three-point play.
But Thomas ensured the Irish (14-6, 6-4) didn't have another
meltdown, making four free throws over the final 1:11 to give Notre
Dame a 66-59 lead.
"I just tried to smile and have fun out there," he said.
After Dudley scored inside with 30 seconds left, the Eagles
forced a turnover and had a chance to cut the lead to two points.
But Dudley drove the lane and as he passed to Smith, he ran into
Falls and was called for the offensive foul.
Every time Notre Dame needed a big basket, Falls hit a
3-pointer. He hit two 3s 6 minutes into the second half to give the
Irish an 11-point lead, and when BC cut the lead to 54-41 with 8:25
left he hit another. He did it again when the Eagles cut the lead
to three with 6:43 left.
"We had that refuse-to-lose mentality tonight," Falls said.
Falls was 7-of-12 on 3-pointers, a career-best effort from
outside the arc.
Irish coach Mike Brey said he was surprised how open Falls was
"I was a little shocked they left him," he said. "But if they
want to let him play horse, that's fine."
Smith, BC's leading scorer at 18.7 points a game, missed his
final eight shots and finished 4-of-14 for nine points with eight
It was Notre Dame's first win over a Top 10 team since Feb. 9,
2004, an 80-74 victory over No. 5 UConn. But it was their second
win over a ranked team in three games as they beat No. 19
Connecticut 78-74 on Jan. 30, and for the second straight home game
students flooded the floor to celebrate.
The Eagles were the latest team to arrive at the Joyce Center
undefeated and leave with a loss. The most famous Irish win over an
unbeaten team occurred in 1974, when UCLA came in 13-0 and on an
88-game winning streak. The Bruins lost when the Irish outscored
the Bill Walton-led Bruins 12-0 over the final 3:32 to win 71-70.
The Irish also beat a top-ranked UCLA team that was 14-0 in
1971; beat No. 1 San Francisco (29-0) in 1977; and beat top-ranked
DePaul (25-0) in double overtime in 1980.
Skinner said the loss, coming at the start of eight days off,
wasn't all bad.
"It definitely comes at a good time," he said. "It gives us a
chance to get refocused, sit down and start again."