The Boston College Eagles had a shot to take down the #4 ranked Duke Blue Devils, but came up just a tad short. After 40 hard-fought minutes against one of the best teams in the country, BC put the ball in the hands of Olivier Hanlan and let him go to work. He probably waited too long to initiate the action, but beat his man off the dribble and got a decent look at the rim. The shot was way off and time expired as the referees swallowed their whistles. Duke escaped with a 62-61 win.
The cynics will laugh at the notion of another "moral victory." But you can't seriously watch this game and be upset with how the Eagles played tonight. Duke was a 11.5 point favorite and BC gave them everything they could handle. Some untimely breakdowns and some absolutely enormous shots by Quinn Cook let the Dukies survive. But I think it's fair to say that we saw a whole lot of maturation in this BC squad.
The entire BC team played with tremendous energy. Ryan Anderson fought relentless under the basket and powered through contact to finish some tough plays. Eddie Odio unleashed a couple ABSURD dunks and scrapped for rebounds in traffic.
This may have been the Eagles' best defensive effort of the year. They were closing hard on shooters and the double-teams were quick on Mason Plumlee. Plumlee finished with 19 points, but he had to work his ass off for almost every single one of them. The game plan was obviously to double him every time he got the ball, and they did a good job of that. He frequently found himself pinned against the baseline with nowhere to operate. Steve Donahue assured me after the game that this defensive intensity was not merely a result of playing against Duke, but that this team was truly making strides defensively. It remains to be seen if BC can defend at a high level on a consistent basis.
Olivier Hanlan was tremendous, as usual. He routinely broke defenders down off the dribble and got into the teeth of the Duke defense. He went to the foul line a number of times and made 11 of 12 free throws once he got there. Hanlan was visibly upset in the press conference afterwards, but there's absolutely no way that BC comes this close without him. There's nobody on this team that can create his own shot (and looks for others) like Hanlan. He's the best player on the team and he's only going to get better. I'm extremely excited to see how Hanlan's career at BC pans out. The kid could be pretty special.
It was nice to see Dennis Clifford play some decent minutes. He played 14 minutes and really give the Eagles a defensive presence in the paint. Hopefully he can get healthier and play a bigger role in the latter part of the season.
Conte Forum was quite loud. The security on hand had zero chance of stopping the potential court-storming. Could have been a really awesome moment. Alas.
The Road Ahead
BC has a couple days off and then hosts Wake Forest at Conte Forum on Wednesday night at 7:00 PM.