By HOWARD ULMAN
The Associated Press
Saturday, March 12, 2011; 7:42 PM
BOSTON -- John Holland hit two free throws with 2.4 seconds left to cap a 27-point performance and lift Boston University into the NCAA tournament with a 56-54 win over Stony Brook in the America East championship game Saturday.
The second-seeded Terriers never led until Holland, whose 23 second-half points led a comeback from a 15-point deficit, made both shots after being fouled by Dallis Joyner while driving along the right baseline.
The Seawolves had one last chance, but Bryan Dougher's 50-foot shot at the buzzer bounced off the rim. Leonard Hayes led No. 5 seed Stony Brook with 14 points but was scoreless in the second half.
Boston University (21-13) reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002 and seventh time overall. Stony Brook (15-17) has never made it in the 12 years since it moved up to Division I.
The Terriers scored the last eight points, with Holland providing the final four on free throws. It was a stirring finish that had the big crowd at Agganis Arena on its feet after fans were quiet early as the Terriers got off to a horrible start.
They missed their first seven shots before D.J. Irving finally made a layup 6:26 into the game to cut the Seawolves' lead to 5-2. It was 30-23 at halftime, and Stony Brook had its largest lead, 41-26, with 16:47 left.
Then Holland, the conference player of the year and most outstanding player of the tournament, began to take over.
He connected on a jumper from the left baseline before Chris Martin made two layups for the Seawolves with 16:47 to go. But they didn't score again for more than 5 minutes while Holland got the next 14 points to make it a one-point game, 41-40. That included Boston University's first 3-pointer after 13 misses.
Stony Brook ended its scoreless streak of 5:34 when Joyner made a layup and a free throw with 10:13 remaining, making it 44-40.
The Terriers nearly took their first lead with 5:26 left when Holland's 3-point attempt rimmed in and out, leaving the Seawolves on top 48-46.
Stony Brook built the lead to 54-48 with 3:31 to go on two free throws by Martin and a layup by Preye Preboye before Martin sank two more free throws after Holland made a pair.
But those were the final points for a team that won the America East regular-season title last year before losing in the semifinals of the conference tournament to the Terriers.
Irving made two free throws, cutting the lead to 54-50. Then Holland drove to the basket, drawing a double team, and dished the ball to Dom Morris for an easy layup with 2:17 remaining. It was just the second, and last, assist for the Terriers.
Martin missed a layup with 1:03 to play and Holland was fouled after grabbing the rebound. His shots tied the game, but the Seawolves had the ball. But again, Holland, made a big play when Dougher dribbled into traffic near the top of the key and was tied up by Holland with 31.4 seconds left.
The Terriers had the possession arrow and ran the clock down until Irving passed to Holland on a backdoor cut for the drive that resulted in the foul and the winning points.