BOSTON — Boston College coach Al Skinner’s decision to avoid a likely choice at the end of the game probably helped solidify his team’s NCAA tournament berth.
Rakim Sanders hit an off-balance, 15-foot fallaway jumper from the right baseline with 1.7 seconds left to lift Boston College to a 67-66 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Sanders finished with 19 points and Tyrese Rice had 17 for the Eagles (21-10, 9-7 Atlantic Coast Conference), who won for just the third time in seven games. The victory probably sealed at least an NCAA tournament at-large berth for the Eagles.
Rice, a senior who was playing his final home regular season game, was the probable choice to take the last shot — that is, for everyone except Skinner.
“I thought everyone in the building thought Tyrese was going to get the ball,” Skinner said. “Everyone knows Tyrese is mentally tough. Rakim is just as tough.”
The Yellow Jackets (11-18, 2-14) had taken a one-point lead with 12.4 seconds to play when Lewis Clinch hit two free throws after Sanders was called for a reach-in foul, attempting to tie him up for a jump ball 20 feet from the basket.
After Clinch hit his two free throws, BC inbounded the ball to Rice, who raced it up the court before calling time-out in front of his own bench.
Following a pair of BC timeouts, Sanders took the ball at the top of the key, cut to hit left and nailed the tough shot.
“We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, keeping the ball from Tyrese Rice’s hands,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. “The kid made a great play. I actually thought Gani (Lawal) was going to get a piece of the shot.”
Sanders first thought about driving, but was cut off by a pair of Georgia Tech players.
“Originally I wanted to go to the basket, but I saw the big man come out and I had to get the shot over him,” he said of his lofting shot that sailed over Lawal.
It was Sanders’ second game-winner in the closing seconds this season. His putback with 0.4 left of Rice’s miss gave BC a 67-66 win over Virginia Tech on Jan 31.
Georgia Tech led 62-61 when Lawal lost control of the ball going in for a baseline jam. He then fouled Rice, who grabbed the rebound. Rice hit both free throws, giving BC a one-point lead with 1:18 to play.
Lawal followed with a baseline hook before Rice hit two more free throws, pushing BC back in front, 65-64, with 26.6 left.
The Yellow Jackets finished with their worst league record since going 0-14 in 1980-81.
The two teams could meet again in the ACC tourney next week, depending on what happens with the final few games this weekend.