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MARCH MADNESS / NCAA TOURNAMENT | UP NEXT FOR USC /
BOSTON COLLEGE

Ripple Effect of Upsets Almost Reaches No. 3-Seeded Eagles

March 16, 2001|MIKE TERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Boston College, the biggest beast from the Big East this season, looked rather mortal in slipping past Southern Utah, 68-65, Thursday in the East Regional.

The 14th-seeded Thunderbirds, in their first NCAA tournament, scrapped and clawed with theNo. 3-seeded Eagles play for play until guard Xavier Singletary's three-point basket broke a 63-63 tie with 57 seconds left. That, along with two free throws by Troy Bell with 13.6 seconds to play, gave Boston College (27-4) the distance it needed to return to Nassau Coliseum Saturday for a second-round game against USC.

Still, Boston College had to survive a missed three-point shot at the buzzer by guard Justin Sant to prevail.

"I got a good look at it, it felt good. It came up short," Sant said.

"I feel we were fortunate to win the game," Boston College Coach Al Skinner said. "Defensively, in the second half, we need to start stopping people."

Southern Utah (25-6), which moved into Division I in 1988, was making its first postseason appearance since 1977, when it played in the NAIA tournament and lost to Southwest Oklahoma in the first round.

"It was a heck of a game," Southern Utah Coach Bill Evans said. "I'm very proud of my guys. Our inability to rebound the ball [Boston College had a 52-35 edge] was the difference. Boston College is very athletic and showed a lot of toughness."

The Eagles, however, had their problems with Thunderbird guard Jeff Monaco, who scored 17 of his game-high 26 points in the first half and had four steals.

Three times in the first half, Monaco anticipated and stole passes, either scoring uncontested layups himself or giving the ball to a teammate for an easy basket. When he wasn't defending, Monaco had the hottest hand of any player, making six of eight shots.

Ragged shooting by both sides kept either team from gaining any real advantage in the first 15 minutes. Boston College struggled the most, shooting 31.3% for the half--and 32.4% for the game. Bell, the co-Big East player of the year with Notre Dame's Troy Murphy, was particularly cold in the first half, missing all five of his shots and scoring only two points.

Southern Utah took control first with a 12-4 spurt to go ahead 39-30 with 65 seconds left in the half.

The Thunderbirds settled on a 39-33 halftime lead. Bell, however, scored 16 points in the second half despite four fouls.

"My foul trouble in the first half took me out of the game," Bell said. "Last year we would have lost a game like this. It is a credit to our team to win this close one."

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