BOSTON (AP) — Notre Dame’s Pat Connaughton felt right at home and helped the Fighting Irish finally win on the road.
Connaughton scored 17 points and Eric Atkins had 16, carrying Notre Dame to a 73-69 win over Boston College on Sunday.
With a few hundred family and friends from his hometown of Arlington, Mass. — about 15 minutes away from Conte Forum — watching in the stands, Connaughton helped Notre Dame hang on down the stretch.
“Certainly Pat Connaughton set the tone for us,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “You’ve got to admire that. That’s the definition of a man because he comes home, he’s got 400 people in the stands, most kids are a basket case and can’t deliver, and he just flat out set the tone and delivered the whole night. I would have been shocked if he didn’t.”
The 6-foot-5 junior forward knew things were a lot different when he received a nice hand during pregame introductions.
“I told the media out in South Bend that I’ll probably get a better ovation out here than at home,” he said, wearing a white tee-shirt with Arlington written on front, a gift that a friend’s Mom gave him when he went to Notre Dame before his freshman year.
“It was great. I loved it,” he said of the big hand. “I tried to act serious, but a little smile did break out.”
When he was done talking to the media after the game, he had a bigger surprise. The group was still waiting in the stands to give him another ovation as he walked back out the tunnel to the court.
“I felt it would be like a nice homecoming to wear it,” he said of the tee-shirt as he walked down the hall to meet the postgame crowd.
Zach Auguste added 10 points for the Fighting Irish (14-12, 5-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) in their first road victory of the season. Notre Dame had lost five of its last seven games and was 0-6 away from home.
Olivier Hanlan had 18 points and Joe Rahon 13 for Boston College (6-19, 2-10). Ryan Anderson had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
The Eagles have lost eight of nine and their only two conference wins this season are against last place Virginia Tech.
“We’re trying to get better on the defensive end,” BC coach Steve Donahue said. “You look at our offensive numbers, we’re third in the league in offensive efficiency. Even this game we were good enough offensively.”
The Fighting Irish were clinging to a lead late in the game when Connaughton nailed both ends of a 1-and-1, scored on a drive in the lane and hit a short one-handed flip shot in the lane as they held off BC.
The Eagles had sliced Notre Dame’s lead to four points three times before Connaughton’s timely scoring.
BC did close it to 71-68 on Patrick Heckmann’s driving basket with 9 seconds left, but Garrick Sherman nailed two free throws.
After Connaughton’s flip in the lane made it 63-57 with 3½ minutes left, Rahon hit two free throws for the Eagles. But Auguste nailed a short jumper and Knight had a putback, making it 67-59 with 59 seconds left.
Atkins’ 3-pointer in the final seconds of overtime lifted Notre Dame past BC, 76-73, in the schools’ other meeting in South Bend, Ind. on Feb 1.
The Fighting Irish led by three at intermission and pushed it to 45-38 on Auguste’s dunk with just over 17 minutes to play, but BC scored the next seven points with Anderson starting the spurt with a pair of baskets in the lane.
Notre Dame led 38-35 at halftime.
There was a pregame video tribute and moment of silence for longtime BC men’s basketball sports information director Dick Kelley, who passed away Thursday night at 48-years old after a battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). All of the school’s sports teams are wearing black patches with white letters “DK” in his memory. Donahue had a patch on his dress shirt.
Notre Dame plays the second of three straight on the road at Miami on Wednesday. The Eagles travel to face top-ranked and unbeaten Syracuse, also on Wednesday.
The Irish had two starters from Massachusetts (Connaughton and Auguste).