Eric Atkins’ buzzer-beating 3 lifts Irish in OT
By TOM COYNE The Associated Press February 1, 2014 9:12PM
Notre Dame guard Eric Atkins puts up the game-winning shot in overtime of an NCAA college basketball game against Boston College, Saturday, Feb. 1 2014 in South Bend, Ind. Notre Dame won 76-73, with Atkins leading all scorers with 24 points. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
Updated: March 3, 2014 6:01PM
SOUTH BEND — Eric Atkins made up for missing the potential game-winning free throw in regulation for Notre Dame by hitting a game-winning 3-pointer in overtime.
Atkins drove into the Boston College defenders, then stepped back and hit the 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of Olivier Hanlan with a second left to give the Irish a 76-73 victory on Saturday, ending a three-game losing streak.
“I just rocked him a little bit, went between my legs, and when he went for the crossover, I really had a clean look at it. As soon as I shot it, I knew it was going in,” Atkins said.
Atkins said he wanted to take the shot with only a few seconds left to make sure the Eagles wouldn’t Have one last chance.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said he didn’t talk strategy with Atkins, who has had to contribute more offensively since the Irish lost Jerian Grant because of an academic violation.
“It was, ‘Do it. Go ahead and make a play.’ He said to me when we were doing the alma mater after the game, ‘Man, I owed you guys that one after missing the free throw,’” Brey said. “But happy for him because he’s really had to lead under a tough situation. His style of play has changed a lot since losing his backcourt mate. I was happy he could deliver for us, and he certainly did.”
Ryan Anderson, who led the Eagles with 21 points, said that’s how the season has gone for Boston College (6-15, 2-6 Atlantic Coast Conference), which fell to 1-7 on the road.
“Today was just another ride on the roller coaster,” he said. “There were a lot of ups and downs going on in the game.”
The win came as a big relief for the Irish (12-10, 3-6), who won for just the second time in their last eight games.
“Finally, we’re getting out of here with a win,” Atkins said.
Both teams squandered chances to win in regulation. The Eagles had a chance to open a three-point lead with 7 seconds left, but Hanlan, who failed to score in double figures for just the second time this season, missed the front end of a one-and-one, ending a streak of 13 straight made free throws by the Eagles. Atkins then drove the length of the court and appeared to lose control of the ball, but Hanlan was called for the foul with 0.7 seconds left. Atkins tied the game with his first free, throw, but missed the second.
Atkins scored 16 of his 24 points in the second half and overtime to lead the Irish to the victory. Pat Connaughton added 17 points and nine rebounds and Zach Auguste and V.J. Beachem finished with 10. Beachem scored all his points after intermission, including a 3-pointer early in overtime that gave the Irish their first lead since the first half, as Irish reserves scored 15 points in the second half after being held scoreless in the first.
Lonnie Jackson added 15 points for the Eagles and Joe Rahon added 11. Alex Dragicevich, who played for Notre Dame before transferring following his sophomore season in 2012 because of a lack of playing time, made his first start for BC since Dec. 28. He was booed by the Notre Dame student section every time he touched the ball, and when he finally hit a 3-pointer late in the first half, his teammates on the bench stood up and cheered.
Dragicevich, who is from Northbrook, Ill., said it didn’t bother him.
“It was not too much of an emotional experience for me,” he said.
Boston College led by as many as nine points in the second half, but the Irish closed to within a point twice before finally tying the score at 58 on a three-point play by Atkins with 3:32 left. After trading baskets, Boston College scored four straight points on a layup by Jackson and a pair of free throws by Rahon. Atkins then hit a 3 for Notre Dame with 47 seconds left to cut the lead to 64-63 and eventually tied the game.
BC coach Steve Donahue said he was pleased with his team’s effort.
“I just think we need to take one more little step and we will start winning these games. We were right there,” he said.
Brey said he got on his team early in the second half when they got down by nine, saying he thought they were feeling sorry for themselves.
“I’m like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. I need more competitors,’” he said. “We have great kids. I thought they really rose to the occasion.”