Demetrius Pollard made only four 3-pointers in 18 attempts last season as a freshman on the Northeastern men’s basketball team.
The fifth trifecta proved to be the biggest of Pollard’s career.
It came with less than a second left Friday night and lifted NU to a rousing 65-64 victory over crosstown rival Boston University in both teams’ season opener before a Matthews Arena crowd of 3,242.
Ten seconds after senior cocaptain Joel Smith had fouled out after scoring a game-high 20 points, Pollard got free on Reggie Spencer’s screen and splashed the nets with a wide-open trey with 0.7 seconds left.
“We talk all the time about everybody has a chance to contribute and win a basketball game along the way,’’ said NU coach Bill Coen. “But I just didn’t know it was going to be opening night.’’
Pollard’s winning shot triggered a wild celebration as Pollard, a 6-foot-2-inch, 200-pound sophomore guard from Virginia Bech, Va., was swarmed by teammates, coaches, students, and the pep band.
“It was a great feeling — a great feeling,’’ said Pollard, who scored just 1 other point on the night. “I had some family here, my sister was here, and just to see her jumping up and down beside me, I was like, ‘Wow!’ ”
Pollard’s heroics produced a different reaction on BU’s bench, where coach Joe Jones watched his team suffer a stinging setback after getting a team-high 18 points from junior guard D.J. Irving and an unlikely 3-pointer from sophomore forward Malik Thomas (13 points, 7 rebounds) that gave BU a 63-62 lead with 1:10 remaining.
“Once it left his hand, I just put my head down,’’ Jones said. “It looked good from the start.’’
It was a gut-wrenching finish for the Terriers, who led by as many as 10 points in the first half, 27-17, after fashioning a 17-7 run.
Irving, the mercurial 6-foot, 165-pound junior guard from Chester, Pa., scored 10 first-half points as BU seized control at intermission, 35-26.
But the Huskies were still hanging around thanks in large part to Spencer (18 points, 7 rebounds).
“I thought he was a stabilizing factor, particularly in the first half,’’ Coen said. “He kept us in the game and I thought it was his energy on the backboard that really gave us the anchor to begin our comeback.’’
After the Terriers led by as many as 6 in the second half (46-40) on Nathan Dieudonne’s 3-pointer with 11:39 in the second half, Smith kickstarted the Huskies with his aggressive foul-inducing moves to help NU get into the double bonus with 11:18 to go.
Smith hit a 3-pointer that helped the Huskies tie, 48-48, with 8:08 to go. The teams fought for the lead down to the final 10.7 seconds when Smith fouled out of the game. NU ran a final inbounds play for Pollard, who, despite missing a wide-open trey earlier, was rewarded when Coen called his number.
“If we’re going to do this, particularly in the absence of Jon Lee [who will miss six weeks with an injured ankle], it’s going to have to be as a team,’’ Coen said. “There’s going to have to be a ‘Hero to be named later’ each and every night and that’s why everybody has to stay ready, stay positive, and try to get better each and every day.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.