BOSTON – Behind 17 points from sophomore Dyami Starks (Duluth, Minn.) and 15 from senior Frankie Dobbs (Berea, Ohio), in one the gutsiest performances of their careers, the Bryant University men's basketball team overcame the odds to stun ACC opponent Boston College, 56-54, and bring home the biggest win in program history Sunday afternoon on the road at Conte Forum.
"I knew we were hugely improved, but the only way to validate that is to get some wins," said head coach Tim O'Shea. "And when you think about our journey over the past four years, to finally start to turn it around is pretty emotional really."
Defense and desire fueled the victory, as the Bulldogs (3-2) had multiple chances to put the game away in the final 90 seconds, but just couldn't stretch their advantage over the Eagles (2-4) beyond a single possession.
Up two, 53-51, with 62 seconds left in regulation, Bryant put its leading scorer on the season in junior Alex Francis (Harlem, N.Y.) on the line for a pair of free throws and the team's first shot at adding space on the scoreboard. But Francis would hit just one from the stripe, and Bryant reciprocated on the other end, fouling Joe Rahon, who produced the same result for a 54-52 margin with 42 ticks to go.
BC would be forced to foul again and sent Dobbs to the line with 39 seconds to play, but the senior would keep the home team within a single possession once again with just a single make, 55-52. Sophomore forward Joe O'Shea (Burlington, Vt.) would pick up his fifth foul eight seconds , later, allowing the game's leading scorer, Olivier Hanlan, to bring the home side within one, 55-54, without running any time off the clock.
But when Francis couldn't convert the first half of a one-and-one when BC was forced to foul again, the Eagles grabbed the rebound and charged the other way. But the Bulldogs' defense stood as strong as it had all game, forcing a pressured shot from Hanlan that would miss the mark as Dobbs came down with his biggest rebound of the season and got a quick whistle to return to the charity stripe.
But again, Dobbs would hit just front end, and the Eagles would get the ball back with 8.5 seconds to play. Dobbs would more than make up for his miss, however, and with 3.9 the senior captain picked up the biggest call of his career, drawing a charge on Hanlan to get the ball back in the hands of his teammates.
The game wasn't over yet, though, as sophomore Corey Maynard (Adelaide, Australia) traveled on the sideline before the inbound pass, giving the Eagles one last hope at pulling out the win. But a long-range, last-second three from Ryan Anderson missed the mark, sparking celebration and a collective exhale from the Bulldog bench.
"I didn't think the basketball gods could be that cruel," said O'Shea.
Despite leading Boston College nearly the entire first half and entering the second frame with a 26-24 advantage, Bryant would find itself playing from behind for much of the second stanza.
Early Bulldog misses and five points from Hanlan out of the halftime break would even the score at 29-29 just minutes into the second, and Hanlan would give the Eagles a two-point edge less than four minutes in with a runner through the lane.
Starks – who scored all 17 points (7-11) in the second frame after going 0-for-6 in the first – dropped in his first long ball of the night from the right side to seesaw the score back in Bryant's favor, 32-31, but the edge wouldn't last long, thanks in part to BC's early 7-1 rebounding edge.
BC would shoot 67 percent to open the second and use four Bulldog fouls for a 40-36 lead in the opening eight minutes of the frame, and Bryant would find itself called for six whistles before the halfway point to trail, 44-36, with 10:18 to play.
Bryant cut the deficit in half with back-to-back fast break layups from Starks, 46-42, and the sophomore transfer dropped in a three from the top of the key with 7:24 to go to bring the Bulldogs back within one, 46-45.
With less than six minutes to play, Dobbs made a huge save on the offensive end, keeping the ball in bounds on an errant pass and hitting a triple from the corner to keep Bryant within one. Starks would follow it up with a deep three near the sideline, putting the Bulldogs back on top, 51-49, with 5:19 remaining.
A long shot clock-beating jumper from Hanlan knotted the game at 51-51 once again, and tough defense on each end kept both teams off the board again until the 1:43 mark, when Starks broke through in the paint under pressure, setting up the Bulldogs' 53-51 edge and their road to the program's first win over a BCS conference opponent.
"Five years ago, the biggest game on Bryant's schedule was Bentley," said O'Shea. "Five years later, we've just beaten Boston College on the road. It's a big deal."
The Bulldogs started Sunday's game off with a punch, forcing a turnover after the opening shot and feeding Francis for a thunderous dunk the other direction and a 2-0 early edge.
Bryant managed to keep the Eagles off board until a Ryan Anderson layup 4:05 into the game, and Dobbs would answer with a three the other way for a 7-2 Bryant advantage as the Eagles were ice cold from the field through the opening six minutes.
The Eagles would pick up the pace and slow down the Bulldogs' offense from there, but a triple from Joe O'Shea – the first of his career – near the top of the arc gave Bryant a 10-6 edge with just under 12 to play. But the Bulldogs' aggressive play on the boards in the opening minutes petered off midway through the stanza, and the Eagles used the rebounds to spark their offense, knotting the game at 10-10 with nine to go before the break.
Maynard gave the visitors a 17-12 advantage with six to go in the first, but both sides would be plagued by giveaways and misses throughout the frame. The Eagles cut it to three points, 19-16, as the half ticked under four minutes to go, and BC would finally connect from 3-point range with 1:54 left in the half, bringing the home side within two, 21-19. A Bryant turnover on the ensuing possession gave the Eagles the chance to go ahead for the first time with a corner three from Rahon, 22-21, with 1:19 left in the first, but Dobbs would answer with a trey of his own once again to regain the advantage.
A Hanlan jumper with 16 seconds to go before the break would knot the score at 24-24, but the visiting Black and Gold would go into the locker at the half with a 26-24 advantage when Maynard got a second-chance jumper to fall in just before the buzzer.
On the game, the Bulldogs shot just 32.8 percent from the floor to the Eagles' 40.4 percent clip but converted eight treys to BC's four. Francis and Dobbs pulled in a team-best eight boards, while the former dished out a game-best four assists and added just six points despite averaging 17.8 entering the tilt.
"To see how [Francis] has grown from last year to this year is just incredible," said Starks. "He knows how to win, and he knows that he can help us win by doing more than just scoring."
Hanlan led the game with 19 points for Boston College, while Anderson pulled in a contest-best 14 rebounds. After scoring a career-high 26 points against Bryant last season, BC's Lonnie Jackson was held to just six points on 2-of-6 shooting from the floor in 32 minutes of action.
With the victory, Bryant is now 1-5 against ACC opponents, including a 1-4 mark against Boston College. The win marks the Bulldogs' third straight and is the team's first winning streak since the 2010-11 season when it won four in a row throughout the month of January.
Bryant will look to make it four straight Saturday, Dec. 1, when the Bulldogs return home to host Army at the Chace Athletic Center at 4:00 p.m.
More Postgame Notes …
- Bryant has now won three-straight to improve to 3-2 on the season. The three victories surpasses last season's total of two.
- It marks the first 3-game win streak since the 2010-11 season when Bryant won four in-a-row between January 8 and January 20.
- Bryant is now 1-5 all-time vs. ACC opponents (1-4 vs. BC, 0-1 vs. Maryland)
- BC's Lonnie Jackson had a career-high 26 points against Bryant last year but was held to just six points on 2-of-6 shooting from the floor in 32 minutes.
- Bryant's Alex Francis had 4 assists in the game (all in the first half) while BC finished the game with only 6 assists as a team.
- Starks was 0-6 in the first half but was 7-for-11 from the floor in the second half, including 3-of-6 from three-point range
- Bryant won despite shooting 32.8 percent from the floor and making only 8 of 15 from the free throw line (4-for-9 in the second half).
- Bryant had 13 offensive rebounds to BC's eight on the offensive end.