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Lost in the shuffle of a loss, Smith turns in huge game

All the talk after Villanova’s 60-59 overtime win over Boston College in Friday night’s regional semifinal centered on guard Randy Foye’s 29-point performance that led the Wildcats to the victory.

But immediately after the game, Villanova coach Jay Wright embraced Eagles forward Craig Smith, making sure to give his token of appreciation to the Boston College player.

At least someone recognized Smith’s effort at the Metrodome.

Because he was on the losing end of Friday’s regional semifinal, those in attendance at the Minneapolis regional didn’t focus on – and history probably won’t remember – the game Craig Smith played.

The senior Boston College forward’s stat line was impressive – 14 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in 45 minutes – but nothing that jumps off the page.

Smith’s performance was first-rate because of the plays he made and when he made them.

After playing all but 19 seconds of the first half, the 6-foot-7-inch, 250-pound Los Angeles native played all 25 minutes of the second half and overtime. Through the last half of the second half and overtime, Smith visibly was worn down from banging bodies in the post all game. Smith played the final 4:08 of regulation and all of overtime with four fouls. To cap things off, he jammed his wrist in the last minute of overtime.

None of that mattered. Time after time down the stretch, Smith made big play upon big play.

Boston College made four field goals in the overtime period. On the first, with the Eagles trailing by five, Smith dished to junior Jared Dudley for an easy layup. Smith then got Boston College within one, hitting a jumper in the lane. A Smith assist on a Dudley layup got the Eagles’ deficit back to one. And after having his jammed wrist taped, Smith muscled his way into the lane to hit a lay-in that gave Boston College a 59-58 lead with 13 seconds remaining.

“(Playing in pain) was pure adrenaline,” Smith said. “I was in a lot of pain. I hurt my wrist. I felt confident being in that situation with the ball in my hands and got a good look at it.”

It would be the last look of Smith’s 2,349-point college career. Villanova’s Will Sheridan got open for a layup with three seconds left and the Eagles’ Sean Williams was forced into a goaltending call to provide the Wildcats’ winning margin and eventually relegate Smith’s performance to the category of long-lost great.

Boston College coach Al Skinner said Smith’s and fellow senior Louis Hinnant’s legacies will be defined by more than the final result of Friday’s game.

“They raised the bar as far as Boston College basketball is concerned,” Skinner said.

“Unfortunately, this is going to stay with them for a little while, but the fact of the matter is when they look back, they will recognize what a great year they had and a great career they had.”

– Matt Anderson welcomes comments at [email protected].

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