Boston College Beats Pitt In Big East Tournament Final At MSG
The 2001 version of the Big East tournament is now in the record books. When four days of energy and excitement at Madison Square Garden were over, Boston College emerged as the new champion with convincing wins over Villanova, Seton Hall and Pittsburgh in the title game. The Eagles finished a season to remember as they reversed their 3–13 conference record of a year ago to go 13–3 this season. BC was able to go on long scoring runs to break games open and become the first team in league history to go from last place to first place in a following year.
Sophomore guard Troy Bell was named co-Player of the year along with Notre Dame’s Troy Murphy, who won the honor for the second year in a row. Boston College Coach Al Skinner was named coach of the year. Bell was also named to the First Team in the Big East Conference.
There were some surprises in the tournament this season. It was the first tournament since 1991 that both teams from last year’s finals were not playing in the title game this year. Both St. John’s and the University of Connecticut were ousted in the first round. The "cinderella" team of the tourney was the University of Pittsburgh, which came to New York City and played its way into the title game with upsets over Miami, Notre Dame and Syracuse. Pitt (18–13) led by Ricardo Greer and Isaac Hawkins, will likely receive a bid to the National Invitational Tournament.
The Seton Hall Pirates came on late to try to salvage their season with two big wins in the tournament. The Hall beat the Red Storm in a first-round matchup and upended the Hoyas from Georgetown in the quarter-finals. The Pirates were hot, but then had to face Boston College in a semi-final game to decide who would advance to last Saturday night’s title game.
The Hall has just come off an impressive win over the Red Storm. Seton Hall blocked 12 SJU shots, tying a tournament record. The Seton Hall–Boston College contest featured great end-to-end action in the first half as both teams can run and shoot in transition. Bell had 13 points at the half for the Eagles. Darius Lane led Seton Hall with 10 points. BC led 32–29 at half-time by virtue of its three made free throws.
But the question was: how long could Seton Hall play well, considering this was the team’s third game in as many days. The answer would soon follow. After the Pirates battled to a 42–42 tie with 11:59 to play, Boston College went into overdrive with a 28–3 run that blew the game wide open. What was a tight 42–42 game became a 55–44 Boston College lead with the second of two Uka Agbai stuff shots that got the team playing on all cylinders.
BC coach Al Skinner thought Agbai’s slam dunks lit a fuse on his team. "Once he got those, I think it got everybody pumped up. It got everybody excited," Skinner said. "Everybody" included Troy Bell, who led the Eagle attack with 24 points. Bell, out with a knee injury at tournament time last year, more than made up for his absence this year. He was showed a variety of shots around the perimeter and down the lanes for the Eagles. His play certainly impressed Tommy Amaker, coach of Seton Hall. "He’s deadly from anywhere on the floor," Amaker said. "Anytime he’s open, he’s a threat." Bell was eight for 13 from the floor, including three of six from three-point land. He also went five for five from the charity stripe.
When Xavier Singletary’s basket made it 63–45, BC, with 5:00 to play, the issue was all but settled. Singletary has been a consistent scorer for Boston College and he is one of the reasons for the surprising turnaround. He ended up with 15 points in the game.
The Eagles kept up the scoring. Their onslaught wasn’t over until they had a 25-point lead with the score 70-45. The Eagles were headed to an impressive 75–48 victory and a date with destiny.