2003 NIT 2003 NIT

Updated: Tuesday, March 18, 2003 11:05 PM EST
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Boston College 90, Fairfield 78
Boston College Eagles
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Fairfield Stags
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BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut (Ticker) -- Troy Bell showed why he was named Big East Conference Player of the Year and why Boston College may have been snubbed by the NCAA Tournament.

Bell scored 28 points, hit five 3-pointers and took over down the stretch as Boston College pulled away for a 90-78 victory over Fairfield in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament.

Freshman Craig Smith added 19 points and reserve Jermaine Watson chipped in 18 for the Eagles (19-11), who will face Temple in the first round.

In front of a record crowd of 6,585 at the Arena at Harbor Yard, Nick Delfico led five players in double figures with 14 points as Fairfield (19-13) lost in its first postseason appearance since 1997.

The Eagles are in the postseason for the third consecutive year, but they were bypassed by the NCAA Tournament, even after sharing the Big East Conference East Division crown with Connecticut.

Despite their apparent advantage over Fairfield, the Eagles started slowly before grabbing the lead for good, 25-23, on a layup by Smith with 8:45 left in the first half.

The Stags closed within 67-64 on a basket by Oscar Garcia with 8:50 remaining, but Bell scored every point during a 10-4 run that put away the game.

The senior guard started the burst with a pair of free throws at the 7:22 mark, made two more with 5:40 remaining and hit two 3-pointers 50 seconds apart to make it 77-68 with 4:10 to play.

Boston College led by at least five points the rest of the way.

Bell finished 9-of-15 from the field, hitting 5-of-8 3-point attempts. He also grabbed six rebounds and came up with four steals while playing all 40 minutes.

Smith continued his sensational freshman season by going 7-of-9 from the floor. The Eagles shot 54 percent (34-of-63) and were 8-of-15 from beyond the arc.

The Stags shot just 42 percent (27-of-64), going 8-of-25 from 3-point range. They also were outrebounded, 39-32.

Delfico scored nine points in the opening 4:40 as the Stags jumped to a 13-8 lead. It was 23-16 before Boston College scored 11 unanswered points. Watson started the spurt with a layup 11:25 before halftime. Ryan Sidney hit a jumper, Bell sank a 3-pointer and Smith had consecutive layups for a four-point lead with 8:10 to go before the break.

Freshman Louis Hinnant scored six of his 10 points in the final two minutes of the half.

The Stags got as close as 51-49 on a pair of free throws by DeWitt Maxwell 4:35 into the second half, but Smith followed with consecutive baskets.

Sidney contributed eight points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Eagles, who are participating in the NIT for the first time since 1993.

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