BOSTON (AP) — Boston College center Dennis Clifford feels like all the work is finally paying off.
The seven-foot Clifford had career-best 19 points with seven rebounds to lead Boston College to an 85-74 non-conference victory over Maine on Thursday night.
“Tonight it just seemed like it all fell into place,” Clifford, who received a medical red shirt last season after playing in just two games due to chronic knee injuries. “I feel great physically. It’s just been a comfort level for me and my team.”
Clifford was 5-of-6 from the floor, hit 9-of-11 free throw attempts and clogged up the middle like the Eagles hoped he would, adding three blocked shots.
“I thought on both ends of the floor,” Boston College coach Jim Christian said. “He rebounded the ball and commanded the ball. Everybody knows what he’s been through. I’ve seen how hard he’s worked.”
Graduate transfer Aaron Brown paced BC with 21 points, Patrick Heckmann had 13 points, Dimitri Batten 12 and Olivier Hanlan 10.
It was the third straight win for the Eagles (5-3).
“Offensively, it was probably the best 40 minutes of offense we’ve played, and probably the worst 40 minutes of defense we’ve played,” Christian said.
Zarko Valjarevic led the Black Bears (1-8) with 22 points and Till Gloger had 17 with six boards.
In front of a sparse crowd, Maine hung tight until BC pulled away in the final 4 minutes.
“The competitive spirit, competing and fighting,” Black Bears coach Bob Walsh said when asked about what he liked. “We thought we were going to win and that hasn’t shown up often enough.”
Maine fell to 0-6 on the road.
The Black Bears had used a 9-2 run to slice a 13-point deficit to 59-53 on Troy Reid-Knight’s foul-line jumper before the Eagles seemed to take charge by scoring 12 of the next 16 points over the ensuing 2 minutes. Brown had a baseline and breakaway jam during the spree.
But Maine made one last run, closing it to 73-68 on Gloger’s two free throws before BC put it away with a quick 9-2 spree.
Clifford’s conventional three-point play had given Boston College a double digit lead, 52-42, with 14½ minutes left. Brown then followed with a 3 from the left wing.
The Eagles led 42-34 at intermission.
It was the Black Bears’ first visit to Boston College since they upset the Eagles, 52-51, on Jan. 2, 2010.
The Eagles own a 16-5 edge in the series on the hardwood against their longtime Hockey East rivals.
SHOW US THE WAY
Brown, a transfer from Southern Mississippi, has the younger Eagles watching and learning.
“The first thing that comes to my mind is leadership,” Clifford said of Brown. “It’s not being a guy that’s older, it’s a guy that can speak out with confidence. It brings everybody to another level.”
CAN’T HOLD ‘EM
Maine has given up 80-plus points six times this season.
Maine: The Black Bears came in allowing 82.1 points per game and opponents had hit 53.1 percent of their shots from the floor. On Thursday, BC shot 60 percent in the first half and 53.7 for the game.
Boston College: The Eagles played the second of four teams that they’ll face from the American East conference this season. They beat New Hampshire on Nov. 14 and face Binghamton Dec. 14 and UMass-Lowell Dec. 29.
Maine: At Army on Dec. 21.
Boston College: Hosts Binghamton on Sunday.