Boston College Loss Brings on Worries

TIMES STAFF WRITER

So what was Boston College Coach Jim O'Brien worried about?

Everything.

He's paid to worry, thank you, and has the gray hair to prove it.

O'Brien, in fact, may have been the only hoop nut in New York not buying into Thursday's foregone conclusion that the Eagles were a lock to make the NCAA tournament.

Following a familiar BC story line--good effort, not good enough--O'Brien's players let another big game slip away, but hardly the season.

John Wallace's follow shot with 16 seconds remaining sealed Syracuse's 69-61 victory over Boston College in a Big East Tournament quarterfinal game before a crowd of 19,544 at Madison Square Garden.

Syracuse (24-7) advances to play Connecticut (27-2) in tonight's semifinals. The other semifinal will match Georgetown (25-6) against Villanova (25-5), both quarterfinal winners Thursday.

It is the first time since 1989 that the top four seeded teams have met in the semifinals.

Boston College fell to 18-10 and officially began the sweat-fest that will continue until 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday, when NCAA pairings are announced.

"Absolutely, I'm nervous," O'Brien said. "I don't think anything is guaranteed. I will be very disappointed if we don't get in, but until we get in, who knows what will happen?"

Most observers felt Boston College locked up an NCAA bid with Wednesday's opening-round victory over Pittsburgh.

"BC was in before the tournament," Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said. "They beat Louisville by 20 [14, actually] and beat Vandy [Vanderbilt] at Vandy."

What Boston College hasn't done lately is play like a tournament team, having lost four of its last six games. The Eagles dropped out of the Associated Press top 25 after a Feb. 24 defeat at Georgetown.

The Eagles have also yet to defeat any of the Big East's elite teams, holding a 0-8 record against Georgetown, Connecticut, Villanova and Syracuse.

"It would be nice to beat one of the better teams," O'Brien said. "Then you go into games thinking you can."

O'Brien should be concerned about how his team will fare after it makes the tournament.

Against Syracuse, his team committed 21 turnovers, 14 in the first half, and fizzled in the end despite a 31-point, 12-rebound performance by forward Danya Abrams.

The game was closer than the final score indicated.

After erasing a nine-point, second-half deficit with a 16-4 run of their own, the Eagles and Orangemen traded leads until the final minute.

Abrams' two free throws with 58 seconds left cut the Orangemen's lead to 63-61. Boston College got the defensive stop it needed when, with the shot clock winding down, guard Jason Cipolla's baseline shot fell short of the rim. After Todd Burgan follow shot missed, Wallace scored on the put-back and ended any last-second drama.

Syracuse scored two breakaway baskets in the waning seconds to give the game a lopsided look.

"We're so close," Abrams said. "The effort was there, but you can only say that so many times."

Connecticut 79, Seton Hall 58--The top-seeded Huskies (28-2) survived a four-for-17 shooting night by star guard Ray Allen to easily defeat the Pirates.

Allen, the Big East Player of the Year, picked the right day to leave his jump shot at the hotel. Seton Hall (12-16) shot horribly, making only 19 of 67 attempts (28.4%). Senior guard Danny Hurley made only one of 13 attempts.

Connecticut shot 39%, making 30 of 77 attempts.

The benefactor was center Travis Knight, who finished with 12 points and 19 rebounds, 10 offensive.

Georgetown 92, Miami 62--Sophomore guard Allen Iverson scored eight of his game-high 38 points in a 10-0 run to start the second half, turning a close game into a rout.

The Hurricanes (15-13) trailed by three at the half, 41-38, before the Hoyas (25-6) went on their blitz. Iverson, who made 11 of 21 shots, scored 16 in the first half and 22 in the second, while adding six assists.

Senior forward Jerome Williams added 20 points and 16 rebounds for the Hoyas, who continue to gain momentum as the NCAA tournament approaches.

"Iverson can get his 25, 30 points," Hurricane Coach Leonard Hamilton said. "He's going to get those anyway, but I thought that Williams hurt us more than anyone else."

Villanova 78, Providence 68--Kerry Kittles, in his first game back after serving a three-game suspension for using an unauthorized phone calling card, made six free throws in the last minute to help the Wildcats (25-5) hold off the Friars.

Villanova, the No. 3 seed, trailed at the half, 35-32, with Kittles having scored only four points. But Kittles scored 16 second-half points to finish with 20, while teammate Jason Lawson had 23 points and nine rebounds.

"Sitting out the games was hard on me," Kittles said. "Watching our guys go out on road trips was real hard on me."

Providence (17-11) now must wait to see if it receives an at-large bid from the NCAA.

"I think we deserve to be in, but life isn't fair," Coach Pete Gillen said.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Big East Tournament

Thursday's Quarterfinals

* Connecticut 79, Seton Hall 58

* Syracuse 69, Boston College 61

* Georgetown 92, Miami 62

* Villanova 78, Providence 68

Today's Semifinals

* Connecticut vs. Syracuse, 4 p.m.

* Georgetown vs. Villanova, 6 p.m.

TV: ESPN

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