SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — When Boston College needed to hit a big shot down the stretch Saturday at Notre Dame, it turned to freshman guard Jay Heath and he delivered big time.
“The bench was telling me ‘shoot it,’” Heath said after his fourth 3-pointer of the game from the wing over Notre Dame grad defender Rex Pflueger with 36 seconds remaining provided the Eagles the breathing room they needed in their 73-72 Atlantic Coast Conference victory over the Fighting Irish. “He (Pflueger) was right there. I just put it up and it went in.”
Heath finished with 16 points, while fellow guard Derryck Thornton had 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting and Jared Hamilton added 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting as Boston College (5-5, 2-0 ACC) ended a four-game losing streak. The victory also ended a 13-game winless skid against the Irish (6-3, 0-2) since Feb. 8, 2005 when both were members of the Big East Conference.
“Jay plays with a lot of confidence and he’s a tough kid,” B.C. coach Jim Christian said. “You don’t beat Notre Dame on the road unless you get great effort from a lot of guys. We hit some huge shots down the stretch.”
None bigger than Heath’s basket, which gave the Eagles a 73-67 lead. Mike Brey’s Irish almost pulled it out with T.J. Gibbs having a chance to tie the game with two free throws and 2.9 seconds remaining, but he missed the first and made the second before Dane Goodwin’s shot from past midcourt missed the basket at the buzzer.
“We fought until the very end,” said Gibbs, who finished with a game-high 22 points, 18 in the second half, after being held scoreless in a 72-51 loss at No. 3 Maryland Wednesday night.
“They put it on us in the first half,” John Mooney said after scoring 16 points and grabbing 18 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season for Notre Dame.
Boston College hit 12 of its first 16 shots and forced nine of Notre Dame’s 11 first-half turnovers to take a 12-point lead, 31-19, with 8:21 remaining in the first half.
The Eagles then went 3-of-11 shooting the rest of the way but led 38-28 at halftime as the Irish matched their poor ball handling with 38% shooting (11 of 29).
Boston College, which led by as many as 13 points, finished the game shooting 49%, while holding the Irish to 40% and forcing 15 turnovers.
“I love we made a run at it, but I thought we played the first half feeling sorry for ourselves,” Brey said of the loss coming on the heels of the loss to Maryland and the season-ending knee injury to reserve Robby Carmody. Without him, the Eagles’ bench outscored the Irish 19-10.
The Irish got the lead down to six at 54-48 on Gibbs’ 3-pointer with 12:30 left in regulation. Then after a media timeout, the Eagles built the lead back to double digits, 59-48, on CJ Felder’s 3-pointer with 9:51 remaining.
Julian Rishwain then hit a 3-pointer from the wing to put B.C. up 62-50 and Brey called a timeout with 8:43 remaining. The Irish went 6:27 without a field goal before Prentiss Hubb hit a 3-pointer to close the deficit to 66-59 with 6:07 left.
Juwan Durham later hit a reverse lay-in with 1:08 left to pull the Irish back to 70-67. But after a B.C. timeout with 54.7 seconds remaining, Heath buried the eventual game-winner.
Boston College: The Eagles looked nothing like the team that had lost five of their last six, including 82-64 to Northwestern at home in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge last Tuesday. Their hawking defense and their first-half shooting (56%), including 6 of 10 from 3-point land, were impressive.
“I knew we were going to play well,” Christian said. “We practiced well the last couple of days and got back to being who we were.”
The victory puts the Eagles at 2-0 in the ACC.
“This is a grind,” Christian chuckled. “Only 18 more to go.”
Notre Dame: The Irish, 0-2 in the ACC, entered the game averaging just 9.5 turnovers per game (second nationally) and committed 11 in the first 20 minutes. They again struggled from the floor as they did in their loss at Maryland.
The Irish clearly missed the aggressive and slashing Carmody. Goodwin, who had four points but was just 1-of-9 shooting off the bench, had an open look on a 3-pointer late in the first half and threw up an airball that summed up things.
But Brey was pointing fingers at no one but himself.
“We came back Thursday and we were moping because we got our butts whupped and we got a guy down,” Brey said, “and I didn’t push at it and address it. I don’t think I had a really good week helping our guys.”
Boston College: Tuesday vs. Albany.
Notre Dame: Tuesday vs. Detroit Mercy.
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