BOSTON (AP) — Nik Popovic will certainly remember his free throw that gave him 1,000 points in his Boston College career.
His coach and teammates will likely recall the pair from the line that helped BC survive at the end.
Popovic scored 13 points that included his two clutch free throws with 8.2 seconds left and became the 45th player at BC to reach 1,000 points in a 72-68 victory over Eastern Washington on Wednesday night.
Clinging to a one-point lead, BC guard Derryck Thornton missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Popovic jumped to his right, snatching the key rebound.
“That’s just something we do,’’ said Popovic, a 6-foot-11 senior forward. “You have to get ready to make a hustle play.”
His free throws then made it 71-66.
“It’s just maturity because of the way he approaches it,” BC coach Jim Christian said. “You come and practice hard and it carries into the game. That’s why he’s been consistent, that’s why he’s gained more confidence. It’s all in the approach.”
Popovic reached the 1,000-point mark with a free throw that gave BC a 52-47 edge with 10:30 remaining.
Jay Heath scored 17 points, including a key 3-pointer in the closing two minutes for BC (4-1). Thornton had 14 points and Jared Hamilton added had 12. Popovic had 12 rebounds and Heath added eight.
Jacob Davison led Eastern Washington (2-2) with 26 points and Kim Aiken Jr. had 17 with 13 boards.
“Yeah, it’s tough because there’s plays to be made in that game,” Eastern Washington coach Shantay Legans said. “An offensive rebound on the free throw, we’ve got to get that ball.”
After Tyler Robertson’s 3-pointer from the left corner gave Eastern Washington a 65-64 edge with 1:58 to play, Heath answered with his 3 just 17 seconds later.
Aiken then missed a 3, and BC’s Steffon Mitchell was fouled and nailed both from the line with 25 seconds left.
Neither team held more than a two-possession lead — except for 17 seconds — in the second half.
It was the first meeting between the schools and part of the Gotham Classic, which features five schools (along with Belmont, High Point and Saint Louis).
Both schools are nicknamed the Eagles.
Eastern Washington: The Eagles were the preseason pick in the coaches’ poll to win the Big Sky Conference. The way the Eagles wiped out an early deficit and hung with an Atlantic Coast Conference school should build confidence for a team that returns three starters.
Boston College: The Eagles looked like they lost a lot of spark following a 3-0 start in their 100-85 loss to Belmont. It appeared to carry over with a sluggish Wednesday night effort that, at times, had ill-advised quick shots, unforced turnovers and lackluster play that was evident when guard Heath had the ball stolen and briefly let up in pursuit.
“I think we’ve got to fix things to keep getting better,” Christian said. “I think we make too many un-fundamental pass plays. We’ve got to take a little more pride in that.”
Davison scored all the points during a 10-0 spree midway into the opening half that turned a 12-point deficit into a two-point game. He did it with two 3s, a fast-break layup and put-back jam in a 2:25 stretch.
WHERE’D IT GO
BC opened the game by scoring the first 12 points, holding Eastern Washington scoreless for nearly four minutes. But the lead was nearly wiped out when the home Eagles went without a basket for over 6½ minutes later in the half.
Eastern Washington: At High Point on Saturday.
Boston College: Hosts DePaul on Saturday.
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