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Opinion: Marcus Smart incident reinforces need for fans to be held to higher standard

02.12.14 at 9:50 am ET
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What would your reaction be if your son or daughter was playing in a basketball game (for which they were not being paid) and was called a “piece of crap” — or worse? Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart was suspended three games Sunday for shoving a spectator after reacting to such words directed at him from a grown man during Saturday night’s game in Lubbock, Texas.

Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart was suspended three games after shoving a fan who yelled at him during Saturday's game at Texas Tech. (AP)

Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart was suspended three games after shoving a fan who yelled at him during Saturday’s game at Texas Tech. (AP)

As a former basketball player at Boston College, I’ve been in this situation. I will never forget going into the stands for a loose ball during a Big East road game. When I tried to get up, a fan grabbed my arm and held on for a bit while yelling something at me. It was loud and I was not focused on what he was saying, but my parents happened to be in the stands behind our bench. My father had to be redirected by stadium security because his reaction was the same as mine would have been if it was my son or daughter. He was walking toward this fan to make sure he knew that if security did not remove him, my father would do it himself if he put his hand on me again.

I’ve heard people try to make the argument that the fan from Texas Tech paid good money for his seat and he should be able to say or do whatever he wants. I ask this question to those trying to make logic out of that argument: If I pay good money to go to a game, do I have the right to curse or do anything I want regardless of if there are young children there or a parent of that player I am berating is sitting a row in front of me?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being behind your team and making as much noise as possible, but since when is it OK to spit venom toward a college or pro athlete without any consequence? I’ve played at some of the loudest arenas — my second college basketball game was at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium — and I’ve heard plenty of hateful things directed at me and my teammates on college campuses and while sitting on the bench for the Miami Heat at visiting arenas.

But I have to say the atmosphere at pro and college games now has reached an all-time low in terms of what is said and done. Just go to an NBA or college basketball arena and you’ll see grown men and women drop f-bombs, regardless of whether there are young children nearby. Oh, wait, they paid good money, so the heck with decency and respect.

Regarding Marcus Smart’s responsibility in this incident, yes, he should not have shoved the fan. But most people, if they’re honest, would say they would have done — or at least wanted to do — the same thing if a complete stranger called them a piece of garbage or worse. Marcus Smart hopefully has learned a very valuable lesson. I hope this incident does not define him as a player or person. He’s a young man who is under a microscope because he’s been blessed with tremendous basketball skills. Three games is an excessive penalty for him.

Until the atmosphere changes at sports arenas, it is the job of police and security to make sure fans are not close enough to make contact with players. Of course, any athlete in the heat of battle — high school, college or pro — within arm’s length of a hostile person is going to have a reaction to being called something offensive. Let’s not put all the blame on Marcus Smart or even the fan; let’s put some of the blame on arena security and the schools for allowing this environment to get so hostile and sometimes dangerous for both athletes and fans.

Unfortunately, this will not be the last time a situation like this occurs. Hopefully fans, players and arena personnel responsible for security and the safety of both fans and participants will learn from this.

I end with the same question as I started: What would your reaction be if Marcus Smart was your son and you were sitting next to this fan calling him a piece of garbage?

Malcolm Huckaby, who was a guard on Boston College’s Elite Eight team in 1994, is a college basketball analyst for ESPN.

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Video: BC’s Dennis Clifford hits full-court trick shot

02.11.14 at 9:35 am ET
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Boston College junior Dennis Clifford is done for the season due to knee and ankle issues, but that hasn’t stopped the 7-footer from Bridgewater from showing up at the gym with his teammates.

During a recent practice, Clifford fired a ball from the baseline directly into the net at the other end of the court, and it was caught on video.

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Patrick Brown’s late goal gives BC fifth straight Beanpot in thrilling win over Northeastern

02.10.14 at 10:08 pm ET
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Boston College was the clear favorite entering this year’s Beanpot, so it should come as no surprise that the Eagles ended up winning city bragging rights for the fifth year in a row. It should also come as no surprise that the title didn’t come easy. It rarely does in this tournament.

A week after getting pushed to the limit by Boston University, the Eagles found themselves in another dog fight against Northeastern, a school desperate to end what is now a 26-year Beanpot drought.

The game had everything you could want in a title game. The teams played fast. They hit hard. The passing was crisp. And both goalies played outstanding. For 54 minutes, the teams matched each other chance for chance, each rush feeling like a potential game-breaker.

Yet the score remained deadlocked at 1-1 until Isaac MacLeod threw a seemingly harmless shot on net from the left point with 5:30 left in the game. The shot quickly turned deadly, though, as BC captain Patrick Brown — sitting on the ice after being knocked down in front — somehow got the blade of his stick on it and deflected the puck past Clay Witt to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead. Johnny Gaudreau added an empty-netter and Brown scored again in the final minute, giving the game a 4-1 final that in no way reflects just how close it was.

“We’re not thinking about the streak. It’s not about winning five in a row. It’s about winning one,” Brown said. “We’re trying to win that game. The key is just not to change your game. You’ve got to keep working hard. You’ve got to keep getting to the net. Really just keep a third guy high and play smart hockey. We got a good bounce there.”

The first period felt like college hockey at its best, but that was only because the rest of the game hadn’€™t happened yet. The teams went up and down the ice trading chances, and Northeastern’€™s Witt (37 saves) and BC’€™s Thatcher Demko (29 stops) each made several great saves. BC (22-4-3) got on the board at the 8:40 mark on a 180-degree turn of momentum. Northeastern (16-10-3) had a goal waved off two minutes earlier because the net came off its moorings before the puck crossed the line, but the Huskies did come out of the ordeal with a power play. They failed to score, though, and 19 seconds after the power play expired, Gaudreau fed Kevin Hayes in the slot for the senior’€™s 21st goal of the season. Read the rest of this entry »

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UMass rallies past URI; Holy Cross tops Bucknell

02.09.14 at 6:30 pm ET
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Chaz Williams had 21 points and seven assists and fueled UMass’ comeback in a 73-68 victory over Rhode Island on Sunday in Kingston, R.I.

Derrick Gordon had 11 points and nine rebounds for UMass (19-4, 6-3 Atlantic-10). Raphiael Putney had 11 points and four blocks, and Cady Lalanne had six points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

E.C. Matthews scored 24 points and Xavier Mumford netted 19 for URI (11-13, 2-7).

Trailing 62-55 with 8:35 remaining after three free throws from URI’s Xavier Mumford, UMass embarked on a 15-3 run to take control of the game. Williams had 11 points and an assist during the spurt.

Putney had a huge swat from behind on a breakaway layup bid by T.J. Buchanan with 40 seconds left. Williams then hit two free throws with 31 seconds remaining for a five-point cushion.

After a 3-pointer by Matthews with 15 seconds left, Trey Davis made two free throws to put UMass up four, 72-68. Davis added one from the line with five seconds left for the final count.

– In Worcester, Justin Burrell scored 19 points to lead Holy Cross to a 66-50 victory over Bucknell, the Crusaders’ seventh win in eight games.

Malcolm Miller added 14 points for HC (14-10, 8-4 Patriot) and Dave Dudzinski had nine points and 12 rebounds.

Cameron Ayers scored 15 points for Bucknell (10-13, 5-7).

Holy Cross led by six points at the break, 27-21, and started pulling away early in the second half. The lead was 20 with 7:23 left after a jumper by Burrell.

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Jabari Parker leads Duke to rout of BC; Harvard suffers first league loss

02.08.14 at 9:21 pm ET
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Jabari Parker dunks during Duke's rout of Boston College. (AP)

Jabari Parker dunks during Duke’s rout of Boston College. (AP)

Duke freshman standout Jabari Parker lived up to his billing Saturday at Conte Forum, posting career highs of 29 points and 16 rebounds in leading the Blue Devils past Boston College, 89-68.

Quinn Cook added 21 points, including five 3-pointers, for Duke (19-5, 8-3 ACC), which broke open the game with an 18-0 run midway through the second half.

Olivier Hanlan scored 25 points for BC (6-17, 2-8), which has lost 10 of its last 12 games. Ryan Anderson netted 12.

BC hung around for a while, trailing by just four at the break, 39-35. Parker scored 12 of Duke’s first 17 points to start the second half, and his three-point play gave the visitors a 12-point lead with just under 14 minutes to play.

Justin Sears had 21 points and 11 rebounds as Yale handed Harvard its first Ivy League loss with a 74-67 decision at Lavietes Pavilion, end the Crimson’s home winning streak at 20 games.

Armani Cotton added 13 points and 10 boards for the Bulldogs (11-9, 5-1), who moved into a first-place tie with the Crimson (18-4, 5-1).

Wesley Saunders scored 16 points and Brandyn Curry netted 12 for Harvard, which shot just 39 percent while allowing Yale to shoot 51.2 percent.

Yale led by four at the break, 39-35. The Bulldogs remained in front in the second half and built the lead to 11 twice, the second time on a Sears dunk with four minutes remaining. Harvard closed to within five points with a minute left after a 3-pointer by Curry, but the Bulldogs held on by hitting 8-of-10 free throws in the final minutes.

– At Agganis Arena, Justin Alston scored 17 points off the bench and Boston University rolled past Lafayette, 88-54, and moved into a tie for first place in the Patriot League.

Alston hit 8-of-10 shots for the Terriers (17-8, 10-2), who finished at 56.1 percent as a team. D.J. Irving contributed 16 points, five assists and three steals.

Seth Hinrichs had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Leopards (6-17, 2-10), who came in averaging 71.9 points per game but were held to a season-low point total.

With American losing at Colgate, BU is tied with the Eagles atop the league standings.

– At Matthews Arena, Marcus Thornton scored 25 points as Williams & Mary defeated Northeastern, 82-70.

Demetrius Pollard scored 13 points for NU (8-17, 5-6 CAA). T.J. Williams tallied 12 points, and Scott Eatherton had 11 points and seven rebounds.

William & Mary (15-8, 7-3) took control early, running out to a 45-18 halftime lead.

– In Baltimore, Akeem Williams scored 30 points and UMass-Lowell picked up a 71-61 victory over UMBC.

Antonio Bivins added 13 points for the River Hawks (8-15, 6-5 America East), who shot 54.3 percent from the field and a blistering 64.3 percent from 3-point range (9-of-14). Williams was 7-of-9 from the field, 4-of-5 from behind the arc and 12-of-14 from the free throw line.

Rodney Elliott scored 26 points for UMBC (8-16, 4-7).

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Steve Moundou-Missi leads Harvard past Brown

02.07.14 at 9:26 pm ET
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Steve Moundou-Missi had eight points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots to lead Harvard to a 52-45 victory over Brown on Friday night at Lavietes Pavilion.

Freshman Zena Edosomwan scored a game-high 12 points for the Crimson (18-3, 5-0 Ivy League), who led 27-21 at the break and opened the second half on a 9-0 run. Siyani Chambers‘ layup capped the run and made it a 36-21 game.

Brown (11-8, 3-2) clawed back to within three points at 48-45 with 2:17 left following two free throws from Tavon Blackmon (11 points), but that would be the Bears’ final points. Wesley Saunders hit two from the line with 1:45 remaining and Moundou-Missi hit a pair with 21 seconds left for the final score.

Harvard hosts second-place Yale (10-9, 4-1) on Saturday night looking to establish a two-game lead in the league standings. The Bulldogs won at Dartmouth on Friday, 67-54, behind 15 points from Brandon Sherrod and a defense that held the Big Green to 29.8 percent shooting.

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UMass tops La Salle; BC falls at Virginia

02.06.14 at 12:06 am ET
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Chaz Williams had 17 points and eight assists to lead UMass to a 79-67 victory over La Salle on Wednesday night in Amherst.

Trey Davis and Cady Lalanne added 13 points apiece for the Minutemen (18-4, 5-3 Atlantic-10), who shot 53 percent from the field and 54 percent from 3-point range. UMass led by 16 points at the break and by as much as 21 points on two occasions in the second half.

Jerrell Wright had 16 points and seven rebounds for La Salle (12-10, 4-4).

– In Charlottesville, Va., 20th-ranked Virginia went on a 15-0 run in the first half to take control and then held off a late Boston College surge for a 77-67 victory.

Ryan Anderson had 20 points and seven rebounds for BC (6-16, 2-7 ACC), which went on a late 15-2 run to get within six (73-67) with 39 seconds remaining before the Cavaliers finished things off.

Malcom Brogdon led Virginia (18-5, 9-1) with 17 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

– In Annapolis, Md., D.J. Irving led a balanced Boston University attack in a 61-48 victory over Navy.

The Terriers (16-8, 9-2 Patriot) held the Midshipmen (7-15, 2-9) to 29 percent shooting and grabbed a season-high 50 rebounds — led by 10 from Malik Thomas — compared to 33 for Navy.

Malcolm Miller scored 17 points to help Holy Cross edge Colgate, 69-68, in Hamilton, N.Y.

The Crusaders (13-10, 7-4 Patriot) trailed by 10 points in the second half before rallying. After Miller tied the game at 65 on a layup, HC’s Justin Burrell stole an inbounds pass and assisted on Eric Green‘s go-ahead dunk with 25 seconds remaining. Miller added two free throws for a four-point lead, which proved vital when Colgate’s Murphy Burnatowski hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Burnatowski led the Raiders (8-14, 2-9) with 16 points.

Scott Eatherton had 11 points and 11 rebounds — his fifth straight double double — as Northeastern beat Hofstra, 81-73, at Matthews Arena.

David Walker scored 15 points for NU (8-16, 5-5 CAA), which led by two with 4 1/2 minutes left before going on a 10-4 run to get a comfortable lead.

Dion Nesmith scored 20 points for Hofstra (7-17, 3-6).

Peter Hooley scored 21 points to lead Albany to a 73-56 victory over visiting UMass-Lowell.

Akeem Williams and Antonio Bivins each scored 17 points for UMass-Lowell (7-15, 5-5 America East), which shot just 36 points. Albany (12-11, 6-4) shot 51 percent, including 47 percent from 3-point range, and dominated the battle of the boards, 41-22.

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Boston College announces 30 football signees

02.05.14 at 1:25 pm ET
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Running backs Jon Hilliman and Marcus Outlow head the list of players who signed with Boston College on national signing day Wednesday.

BC announced 30 signees, a list that includes seven players who already are on campus as midyear enrollees.

Hilliman, a 6-foot-0, 215-pounder from Plainfield, N.J., who rushed 216 times for 2,007 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior at Saint Peter’s Prep, and Outlow, a 6-foot-0, 210-pounder from Norwich, Conn., who rushed 131 times for 983 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2013, are two of 16 offensive players new to the program. That group includes 6-foot-7, 268-pound offensive lineman James Hendren of Newton (Dexter School), the NEPSAC Lineman of the Year, and Troy Flutie (nephew of Doug Flutie), who passed for 3,027 yards and a state single-season record 47 touchdowns as a senior at Natick High.

The defensive group is led by 6-foot-3, 258-pound lineman Harold Landry of Spring Lake, N.C. (Pine Forest HS), an all-state player who received offers from Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Miami and Ohio State, among others. The Eagles also landed defensive back Cameron Seward, a 6-foot-1, 216-pounder from Dunwoody, Ga., and linebacker Connor Strachan, a 6-foot-2, 240-pounder from Wellesley (St. Sebastian’s).

Following are the bios of all the incoming recruits, via a press release from the school.

Sherman Alston, Wide/Receiver Athlete, 5-6, 165, Saint Joseph Regional HS/Fairview, N.J.
Earned third-team all-state honors, first-team all-county recognition and first-team All-Non-Public honors as a senior in 2013 ‘€¦ helped lead Saint Joseph’€™s to three state championships ‘€¦ recorded 201 carries for 1,197 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2013 ‘€¦ ‘€¦ concluded his high school career with 2,656 rushing yards ‘€¦ also recruited by Albany, Bryant, Delaware and New Hampshire.

Jon Baker, Offensive Lineman, 6-3, 300, Millis HS/Millis, Mass.
Twice earned Tri-Valley League Lineman of the Year honors (as a sophomore and junior) ‘€¦ twice served as team co-captain ‘€¦ earned Boston Herald and Boston Globe All-Scholastic honors in 2012 and 2013 ‘€¦ started 41 games and helped lead Millis to Tri-Valley League small titles in 2011 and 2012 ‘€¦ also recruited by Connecticut, Harvard, Holy Cross, Massachusetts, Michigan State, Ohio, Old Dominion, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple and Yale.

Kevin Bletzer, Linebacker, 6-2, 200, Catholic Memorial HS/Medfield, Mass.
Two-time team co-captain ‘€¦ twice earned the team’€™s most valuable player award and earned all-conference honors ‘€¦ captured 2013 Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association All-State Super 26 recognition ‘€¦ earned All-Conference Player of the Year honors as a senior ‘€¦ earned Boston Herald and Boston Globe All-Scholastic honors as senior ‘€¦ three-sport athlete at Catholic Memorial who served as team captain in each ‘€¦ registered 211 career tackles for loss and nine career interceptions.

Kevin Cohee Jr., Defensive Lineman, 6-4, 240, Robury Latin/Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Twice earned All-Independent School League honors ‘€¦ twice served as team captain ‘€¦ registered 20 tackles, including one sack, and two interceptions ‘€¦ recorded one interception returned for a touchdown ‘€¦ also excelled on the lacrosse field ‘€¦ also recruited by Connecticut and Massachusetts.

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Beanpot 2014: BC hangs on to beat BU, advance to fifth straight final

02.03.14 at 10:55 pm ET
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It was closer than expected, but Boston College hung on for a 3-1 win over archrival Boston University Monday night to advance to its fifth straight Beanpot final. The Eagles have won each of those last four championship games, and if they can beat Northeastern next Monday, they’€™ll become just the second team in Beanpot history to win the tournament five years in a row.

The Eagles (20-4-3) opened the scoring 4:04 into the game when Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald took a pass from Teddy Doherty and beat Matt O’€™Connor from the right circle for a power-play goal. BC added what proved to be the game-winner 1:20 into the second when Bill Arnold slid a backhander over to Kevin Hayes for an easy finish.

Much like when they played two weeks ago (a 6-4 BC win), BU refused to give up. The Terriers (8-15-3) generated several good chances early in the third period, and came within inches of scoring when Kevin Duane had a look at an open net, only to put the shot off the post. They finally broke through with 13:17 to go when Robbie Baillargeon beat Thatcher Demko with a wrister through a Matt Lane screen.

BU continued to pressure BC, but couldn’t find the tying goal. Johnny Gaudreau sealed the game with an empty-netter with 24.8 seconds to go. BC and Northeastern will meet in the title game for the third time in four years.

Observations and analysis:

- Surprisingly, the Terriers were the better team for long stretches of the first period, as they generated several good cycles that led to prolonged offensive-zone possessions. They were physical in the neutral zone, aggressive on the forecheck and strong on the puck. As a result, BU wound up outshooting the Eagles 10-5 in the period and out-attempting them 23-12. Of course, the Terriers couldn’€™t turn that possession into goals and still went into the intermission down 1-0. But given that BU is one of the worst possession teams in the country and that BC is not, BU’€™s territorial advantage in the first was definitely unexpected. The second period was much closer to what you’€™d expect, with BC out-attempting BU 26-15.

- Gaudreau extended his point streak to 22 games. He has 21 goals and 24 assists during that streak, and he continues to lead the country in goals (24), points (53), points per game (1.96) and plus/minus (+34). Read the rest of this entry »

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Beanpot 2014: Northeastern demolishes Harvard in tournament opener

02.03.14 at 7:43 pm ET
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In three of the last five Beanpots, Northeastern has given its fanbase hope by advancing to the tournament’€™s championship game. But each time, the Huskies have fallen short and failed to end their February drought, which currently stands at 25 years. Next Monday, they’€™ll get another shot at that elusive fifth Beanpot title.

The Huskies (16-8-3) destroyed Harvard (6-12-3) in the first game of Monday’€™s opening round, scoring four times in the game’€™s first 25 minutes en route to a 6-0 victory. Northeastern took a 1-0 lead 5:57 into the game when freshman forward Dalen Hedges cut to the middle from the right circle and beat Raphael Girard glove-side through traffic. The Huskies struck again six minutes later when John Stevens fed Kevin Roy for a one-timer on a 5-on-3.

The onslaught continued in the second, with Mike Szmatula feeding Torin Snydeman for a redirect in front just 31 seconds into the period. Less than four minutes later, Szmatula set up another goal, this time knocking down an aerial pass before finding Braden Pimm in front. The Crimson never mounted a challenge, and Colton Saucerman and Szmatula tacked on two more goals in the third. Clay Witt made 27 saves to pick up his fourth shutout of the season.

Northeastern will take on the winner of Monday’€™s nightcap between Boston College and Boston University next Monday at 7:30 p.m. The Huskies lost to BC in the 2013 and 2011 title games, and they fell to BU in the 2009 championship.

Observations and analysis:

- Northeastern’€™s freshman forwards continued to do what they’€™ve done all season, which is make major contributions. The Huskies’€™ first four goals were either scored by a rookie or directly set up by one. Hedges showed nice patience on the first goal, working his way toward the middle before finding a shooting lane and beating Girard. On the second, Stevens came off the bench and went right to the slot, where he took a pass from Roy and then quickly dished it right back to Roy for a one-timer. Szmatula, who leads all Hockey East freshmen with 31 points this season, set up the third and fourth tallies with crisp passes to the top of the crease that Snydeman and Pimm were able to redirect. Szmatula, Hedges and Stevens are three of Northeastern’€™s top five scorers this season, and classmates Zach Aston-Reese and Matt Benning (a Bruins draft pick) aren’€™t far behind. Read the rest of this entry »

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