Craig Smith thought there was no worse feeling in the world than when he fouled out of Boston College's 57-54 loss to Georgia Tech in the second round of the NCAA Tournament two years ago.
Smith walked off the court at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee a picture of absolute dejection after he had scored a mere 2 points in 22 foul-plagued minutes.
"This is a feeling that's even worse," said Smith, whose game-high 26 points (on 10-for-13 shooting from the field, including a one-handed runner with 1.3 seconds left for his first 3-pointer of the season) went for naught in BC's 60-58 Atlantic Coast Conference loss to the Yellow Jackets yesterday before an Alexander Memorial Coliseum sellout crowd of 9,191.
"You try to do everything you can and, obviously, you come up with a loss," Smith said after the 11th-ranked Eagles dropped to 11-3 overall and 0-2 in ACC play. BC lost its first conference game at Maryland, 73-71, Dec. 11.
"I feel bad. I kind of fault myself down the stretch. Obviously, I had a chance to put us up."
Smith, who scored BC's last 10 points of the game, was referring to the opportunity he had to give his team the lead when he stepped to the foul line (where the Eagles converted 10 of 19 overall) with the Eagles trailing, 55-54, with 55.5 seconds left. Smith clanged his first offering, blowing BC's chance to take control of the lead, but made his second to preserve a tie.
But Georgia Tech wrested it away when Anthony Morrow (15 points) drove baseline, pulled up after getting hemmed in by several BC defenders, and kicked it out to the perimeter where Zam Fredrick (7 points) knocked down a clutch trey that made it 58-55 with 33.5 seconds left.
After Louis Hinnant saved the Eagles from coming up empty on a loose-ball scrum by calling timeout with 12.8 seconds left as Smith battled on the floor for possession, Jared Dudley (14 points, 7 rebounds) inbounded the ball, putting it in the hands of freshman guard Tyrese Rice (10 points), who hesitated for a second on a contested 3-point shot from the corner that missed its mark and fell into the waiting hands of Georgia Tech's Jeremis Smith (16 points, 9 rebounds).
"Georgia Tech did a good job of taking it to us physically, particularly the first 20 minutes," said BC coach Al Skinner, whose team trailed at intermission, 29-26, after the Eagles hit just 10 of 19 field goals (1 of 9 from the 3-point arc) and were outrebounded, 18-9 (33-23 overall). "We didn't respond particularly well, I didn't think.
"In the second half, I thought we did a better job with that. [Georgia Tech] worked their tails off, they rebounded the crap out of the basketball, and they hustled and I thought they played a great ball game."
This from a Georgia Tech team projected to finish ninth (of 12 teams) in the ACC's preseason media poll and had barely a recognizable name or face (with the notable exception of coach Paul Hewitt) from the squad that got past BC two years ago in the NCAA tourney and advanced to the Final Four in San Antonio.
"This certainly is an important win," Hewitt said after his team improved to 8-4 (2-0 ACC). "Any time you have a home game in the ACC, you almost have to win."
"Starting off with two games on the road in the ACC, that's how it is," Dudley said. "Two heartbreakers, two losses, but no one is going to feel sorry for us. This is how you've got to do it; you've got to be able to bounce back and respond to the challenge.