The moment Jason Dunne saw his pull-up 3-pointer split the net with five seconds left in the first half, the light bulb went off for the Hartford men’s basketball team.
Dunne ran back the other way, howling and punching the air with his team set to go into the the locker room with a 27-23 lead.
He could smell blood.
“I was telling the guys that it looked like they didn’t want to be there,” Dunne said.
Hartford had never beaten BC in six matchups going back to 1984. Beyond that, it had never beaten an Atlantic Coast Conference team.
What Hartford realized was BC was very, very beatable.
Hartford knocked down 11 of 28 3-pointers and led by as many as 11 points. But with Hartford’s upset slipping away, down 63-62 with nine seconds left, Dunne drained a three from in front of the Hawks’ bench to shove the dagger in the Eagles and give Hartford a 65-63 victory Friday night.
“A lot of times you’ve got to take advantage when these major college teams aren’t ready,” said Dunne, who scored a game-high 25 points, going 7 for 15 from the floor, 5 for 10 from 3-point land, and 6 for 6 from the stripe. “They kind of take us lightly or don’t come out with enough energy and we took advantage of that. It’s huge for the university, huge for the school, huge for the program.”
After shooting 22.2 percent in the first half, the Eagles (4-5) didn’t show vital signs until late in the second half. But whenever they made a run, the Hawks (3-8) answered.
A flagrant foul by Hartford forward Jack Hobbs sent BC’s Jordan Chatman to the line with 1:13 left, and he sank both foul shots to tie the score at 59-59. A layup by Eagles big man Mo Jeffers gave BC A 61-59 lead with 51 seconds left.
J.R. Lynch responded by knocking down a 3-pointer to put Hartford back up, 62-61 with 30 seconds left, but 16 seconds later, Jerome Robinson knocked down a jumper to give the Eagles a 63-62 lead with 14 seconds left.
After taking a timeout, Hartford inbounded the ball in front of its bench. On a play that seemed broken from the inbounds, the ball found its way to Dunne, and Hawks coach John Gallagher knew it was in the right hands.
“He’s a big-time elite scorer at any level,” Gallagher said.
Hartford has pushed power conference teams to the brink before.
“To be quite frank, we’ve been in so many of these high-major close games in my career — at Washington, up four with 2:30 left, this year Rutgers, Texas A&M — my teams traditionally, we’re usually in those types of games. We just never finish them. Credit our guys, we made some tough shots.”
It was the second ugly loss of a young season for BC, which dropped a game to Nicholls State in November. Hartford came in 2-8, sitting at No. 337 in the RPI rankings.
But with just 2,274 fans in the stands, Conte Forum felt as lifeless as the team they were watching. Robinson, who had been carrying most of the scoring load for the Eagles this season, averaging 26.3 points, played all 40 minutes just two nights prior in a loss to Harvard.
He missed 11 of his 13 attempts (and all five 3-pointers) and finished with just 4 points. The Eagles couldn’t find anyone to pick up the slack. A.J. Turner finished with 13 points and seven assists.
“If you don’t come to play in Division 1 basketball, you get beat,” said BC coach Jim Christian. “I don’t care who they are. I don’t care what their record is.”
The Eagles have lost four of their last five games, and lost to a team picked to finish next to last in the America East conference.
“Forget about acting like an ACC team, we’ve got to act like a team that wants to win,” Christian said.
Box score: Hartford 65, BC 53
At Conte Forum
HARTFORD (3-8) — Carroll 1-2 0-0 2, Attia 0-0 0-0 0, Lynch 4-10 0-0 10, Ross 4-11 6-6 16, Dunne 7-15 6-6 25, Ramirez 0-5 0-0 0, Blagojevic 1-3 0-0 2, Wilkerson 1-1 2-2 4, Hobbs 2-4 0-0 6. Totals 20-51 14-14 65.
BOSTON COLLEGE (4-5) — Jeffers 3-5 2-3 8, Tava 3-7 6-7 12, Turner 5-9 1-2 13, Robinson 2-13 0-0 4, Graves 2-8 1-2 6, Reyes 0-1 0-0 0, Bowman 1-2 0-0 3, Owens 2-5 0-0 4, Popovic 1-3 3-4 5, Chatman 2-8 2-2 8. Totals 21-61 15-20 63.
Halftime: Hartford, 27-23. 3-pt. goals: Hart 11-28 (Lynch 2-6, Ross 2-5, Dunne 5-10, Ramirez 0-2, Blagojevic 0-1, Hobbs 2-4), BC 6-21 (Turner 2-5, Robinson 0-5, Graves 1-6, Bowman 1-1, Chatman 2-4). Rebounds: Hart 37 (Dunne 7), BC 37 (Jeffers 8). Assists: Hart 15 (Lynch, Hobbs 4), BC 17 (Turner 7). Fouls: Hart 17, BC 15.Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @julianbenbow.