HOUSTON — Into each NCAA Tournament must step a Cinderella team. It's an NCAA bylaw or something. But until Sunday, a true Cinderella had not emerged.
Up popped Boston College to fill the role, scoring a whopper of an upset with a 74-73 victory over Duke in a Midwest Regional second-round game at Hofheinz Pavilion.
This is the same BC team that finished sixth in the Big East Conference and came into postseason play limping with a four-game losing streak. The Eagles snapped that string in their first tournament game when they scored a mild upset by bumping off Southwest Conference champion Texas Tech, 55-53.
Boston College now makes a trip of the year to Dallas, where it meets Memphis State in a regional semifinal Thursday. "We don't always look good," Boston College Coach Gary Williams said. "Sometimes we're even sloppy, but I've never questioned their (players) effort."
The Eagles could have lost interest early. The Blue Devils had them down by 11 points late in the first half.
"I was very concerned," Williams said. "I was worried that maybe we were thinking we had had a good season and that we were playing a good, ranked team in Duke. We just didn't seem to get into it for some reason. I knew, though, we had a shot at it when we got it down to five at the half."
As they did against Texas Tech, the Eagles gave Duke fits by constantly changing from one zone defense to another.
Trailing by three late in the game, it appeared Duke was playing a delay game. But Blue Devil coach Mike Krzyzewski said: "We didn't hold the ball at any time. We were trying to score, but they were holding us defensively. They went from a 1-2-2 zone to a 1-3-1, and we didn't handle it very well."
Williams said he didn't start using the 1-3-1 until his team's 23rd game of the season. "It has been good to us," he said. "We are able to trap out of it, which lets us take advantage of our quickness."
The Eagles got another outstanding game from point guard Michael Adams, who Friday hit a 20-foot shot with six seconds to play to beat Tech. Against Duke, he scored 19 points, 11 in the second half. He hit an 18-foot shot at 12:08 to tie the game at 53 and a minute later gave the Eagles their first lead (55-54) since the game's opening moments when he scored from 10 feet.
Boston College built a five-point lead at 73-68 with 1:05 to play. Duke twice cut the margin to two, the last time with six seconds remaining.
The Blue Devils did not get a top-drawer game out of their All-American guard, Johnny Dawkins. He hit only six shots in 21 attempts, finishing with 18 points.
Duke was handicapped by not having a healthy team. Forward Mark Alarie, trying to come back from a hip-pointer that caused him to miss a week of practice earlier this month, was not a full speed. Top reserve David Henderson suffered an ankle injury in the first half and watched the rest of the way from the bench.
"Those are just adversities you have to overcome," said Krzyzewski.
Said Williams: "I thought Duke got a little tired at the end. Henderson being hurt didn't allow them to use their regular sub rotation."
Duke shot only 36%, while Boston College hit 52%.
The Eagles, who won their first 11 games of the season and then struggled in Big East play, bring a 20-10 record to Dallas against Memphis State. Duke closed with a 23-8 record.
On playing Memphis State, Williams said: "Their size is going to be a problem for us, but then they'll have to adjust to our game."
Which is something Tech and Duke couldn't do.