Ga. Tech leaves BC no room for its errors

Yellow Jackets force 22 turnovers, hang on for 57-54 win over Eagles

Ncaa Regional

St. Louis

March 22, 2004|By Dan McGrath | Dan McGrath,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

MILWAUKEE - The hordes of red-clad Wisconsin fans who turned the Bradley Center into a roiling sea of red for the Badgers' second-round NCAA tournament game with Pittsburgh were a late-arriving crowd, which left Georgia Tech and Boston College to tip it off before a sea of empty seats in yesterday's preliminary.

It was probably just as well. Junior varsity style ambience was accompanied by puzzling stretches of JV-caliber play before Tech (25-9) survived, 57-54, to earn a Sweet 16 berth opposite upstart Nevada in the St. Louis Regional.

B.J. Elder had 18 for Tech, which is in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996.

BC (24-10), which had been efficient in dispatching Utah in the first round, had more turnovers (22) than baskets (20) and got just two points from All-Big East forward Craig Smith, who was ineffective in 22 foul-plagued minutes.

"Turnovers were the difference," Eagles coach Al Skinner said. "Give Tech credit for the mistakes they forced, and some were the result of our own carelessness. But either way, turnovers were the story of the ballgame."

The most telling came with about eight seconds remaining. Georgia Tech's offense had gone missing after it opened up a 44-33 lead at the 16:13 mark by beginning the second half with a 9-2 flurry. BC took its only lead (54-53) on Jermaine Watson's free throw with a minute left, but freshman Jarrett Jack got it back for the Jackets by converting two free throws after drawing Smith's fifth foul on a drive to the basket with 30 seconds remaining.

After a timeout, BC set up an inbounds play with 12.6 seconds left. Guard Steve Hailey drove the left baseline, only to be sealed off by Tech's 7-foot-2 center Luke Schenscher. When Hailey flipped the ball back to BC center Uka Agbai, Jack darted in front of Agbai and stole the pass, then went the other way for a rim-rattling dunk and a 57-54 Tech lead. The Eagles still had 5.5 seconds to go for the tie, but Watson's three-pointer rolled off the back iron as time expired.

Jack, a quick and explosive guard, eschewed trying to dribble out the clock or draw a foul after his steal.

"I didn't know how close anybody was to me, so I thought I'd try to make it a three-point game and give them as little time as possible to get the ball past halfcourt," he said.

Coach Paul Hewitt agreed with the decision ... in hindsight.

"I was trying to tell him to dribble it out, but it was a little loud in there for him to hear me," Hewitt said. "But you know what? We've been an aggressive team all year, so you might as well go down and get the sure two and then defend. It wound up being the right play.

"You can X and O all you want, but it comes down to players making plays, and Jarrett Jack made two huge plays at the end."

Of more concern to Hewitt was Tech's offensive lethargy - the Jackets scored only 13 points in the final 16 minutes after opening their largest lead of the day.

"When it got to 44-33, BC sort of gritted their teeth and went to work, and we didn't respond," Hewitt said. "To make it as close as they did while getting so little from Craig Smith - you've got to respect that."

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BOSTON COLLEGE-Smith 1-4 0-0 2, Dudley 5-7 1-4 13, Agbai 4-7 0-0 8, Hinnant 2-3 4-4 8, Marshall 2-9 0-0 5, Watson 3-8 4-6 11, Hailey 0-1 0-1 0, Doornekamp 3-5 0-0 7. Totals 20-44 9-15 54.

GEORGIA TECH-McHenry 4-4 1-1 10, Schenscher 1-4 0-0 2, Elder 7-15 0-0 18, Jack 3-7 2-2 8, Lewis 4-9 0-0 9, Muhammad 3-6 0-1 6, Bynum 0-1 0-0 0, Brooks 0-0 0-0 0, Moore 1-4 2-2 4, Tarver 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-51 5-6 57.

Half: Georgia Tech 35, Boston College 31. 3-point goals-Boston College 5-13 (Dudley 2-2, Doornekamp 1-1, Watson 1-4, Marshall 1-5, Hinnant 0-1), Georgia Tech 6-18 (Elder 4-7, McHenry 1-1, Lewis 1-5, Bynum 0-1, Moore 0-1, Muhammad 0-1, Jack 0-2). Fouled out-Smith. Rebounds-Boston College 30 (Dudley 9), Georgia Tech 24 (Moore 7). Assists-Boston College 14 (Watson 4), Georgia Tech 15 (Jack 6). Total fouls-Boston College 14, Georgia Tech 17. A-18,866.

Regional highlights

Top performer: Georgia Tech's Jarrett Jack who had a steal and dunk with less than six seconds left that sealed a win over Boston College.

Big surprise: No. 9 seed Alabama-Birmingham stunning No. 1 seed Kentucky to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1982.

He said it: "We knew coming in it was like David vs. Goliath and we were David. I'll tell you what: David swung a mighty blow." - Alabama-Birmingham coach Mike Anderson

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