In what many are calling not only the biggest upset of the current college basketball season, but one of the biggest of all time, Boston College went into the Carrier Dome before 26,716 and stunned #1 Syracuse, 62-59 in overtime.
The win, certainly the biggest of Steve Donahue's tenure at the Heights, was the first Eagle win over a number one opponent since a 2009 win at North Carolina. This will definitely make ESPN's College GameDay trip to Durham for SU-Duke this coming Saturday, a little less fun AND provides BC with a win in the all important Orange Eagle Trophy hunt!
Come on, how many of you saw this coming? There was really no reason to think this could happen. Yes, Syracuse had pulled some Houdini like escapes recently, but BC didn't seem well equipped to deal with the Orange and their vaunted zone.
Steve Donahue has taken a lot of heat on this site during the year from me included, but you've got to give him, the staff and the team a lot of credit for tonight. At 6-19 overall and 2-10 in the ACC, the team easily could have rolled over and gotten blown out. To be honest, after what I saw the other night against Notre Dame, I half expected it, but they didn't.
BC came out with a clearly defined game plan against the zone. Run opportunistically and milk the shot clock otherwise and for a majority of the first half, that worked very well. The Eagles opened a quick 7-2 lead and were able to keep the possessions down by controlling their defensive backboard as well.
Like the first game at Conte though, the Eagle offense got stagnant and turnovers became an issue. Neither Ryan Anderson nor Eddie Odio was effective at the critical high post position and BC went over five minutes without a point as Syracuse jumped to the lead.
The Orange forced 12 Boston College turnovers in the half, leading to a whopping 17-0 points off turnover advantage, but despite it all were only able to take a 25-17 at the break.
Early in the second half, things didn't look very promising. A Tyler Ennis three at the 16:21 mark put SU up 33-20 before BC calmed the waters and went on a extended 6-0 run.
The catalyst to the come back was junior forward Patrick Heckmann. Heckmann (25 minutes, 9 points on 4-6 FG and 4 rebounds) got the Eagles out of their offensive funk and starting driving the ball right through the Syracuse zone. What this did was collapse that generally expanding defense and opened up the perimeter shooters. And tonight..the shooters delivered.
BC shot a fabulous 52.2% from the floor in the second half, including 7-12 from three, while committing only five total turnovers and allowing just two second half points off turnovers. Joe Rahon, who had major issues on mid range jump shots, was on fire from three making 3 of 4 and Olivier Hanlan seemed to follow Heckmann's lead driving the ball to the basket as well as sticking the open jumper, finishing with a team high 20.
Heckmann's drive and dish to Ryan Anderson (9 points and 14 rebounds), finished off about as good a stretch of offensive basketball as the Eagles have played all season and gave BC a 43-41 lead with 7:04 left.
It was right after this that Donahue appeared to try to micro manage the game at the offensive end and really took the flow that BC had away. BC came out of a time out and the motion and dribble penetration that was creating open looks was replaced by a lot of standing and poor, late in the shot clock possessions.
BC though did tire somewhat down the stretch and that manifested itself in the rebounding war. Although BC ultimately outrebounded Syracuse 40-37, the Eagles gave up 17 offensive rebounds, including 11 in the second half. Rakeem Christmas and Jerami Grant both pounded the backboard and Grant eventually got the Orange (25-1 overall, 12-1 ACC) the lead back at 50-48, with 1:09 left.
Hanlan would immediately respond on a driving layup to tie the game at 50 and mark the first points Syracuse had given up in a game this year when tied in the last minute of regulation or overtime.
BC would weather a final Syracuse possession and send the game into OT tied at 50.
Once again, it didn't look overly promising. Any time you give #1 another chance and add more time, that can't be good..but the Eagles didn't give in, instead BC controlled the OT.
Hanlan and Heckmann both connected on threes sandwiched around a CJ Fair layup to put BC up 56-52, but the Orange would counter behind Tyler Ennis eventually taking their only lead of the OT at 57-56 with 1:12 left.
Heckmann would convert a gorgeous high/low feed from Anderson to put BC back on top to stay at 58-57 with 46 seconds left and then number 1 got nervous.
Ennis tried to force a very early entry pass into CJ Fair which was ruled to have been tipped by Lonnie Jackson, although the replay pretty clearly showed Jackson did not touch the ball. Given a second chance, this time it was Fair who rushed and missed an attempt with 28 seconds left.
Lonnie Jackson then was able to make four straight FTs down the stretch and when a very quiet Trevor Cooney missed a deep three that would have tied the game, the Eagles had their upset.
I saw immediately after the game that there were people talking about how good or bad this win was for the program. Let me tell you...there is NEVER a bad win over number 1. Donahue talked post game about how big a win this was for him in building the program, but honestly I don't believe one win based on the volume of evidence that has mounted against him through the year will save his job. But tonight wasn't about Donahue's job or how much this program has underachieved this year, this should be about celebrating a helluva win and as Donahue did point out in his post game talk with LaPhonso Ellis, attract recruits.
For one night....IT'S GREAT TO BE A BC BASKETBALL EAGLE!
-- BC shot 43% for the game and 52.2% in the second half as well as making nine three point FGs in the second half and overtime.
-- The much maligned BC defense limited Syracuse to just 32.3% for the game and kept Trevor Cooney who went off in the first contest at Conte to just 5 points, while out-rebounding Syracuse 40-37.
-- The load was pretty equally spread tonight for the Eagles outside of Hanlan. Jackson had 10, Anderson, Rahon and Heckmann all had nine.
-- Eddie Odio didn't play at all in the second half, replaced by a much more effective Heckmann as the Eagles only played eight people total - no Garland Owens, one minute for Will Magarity and four for KC Caudill.
-- Donahue definitely played the game his way. There were more than a few times that even when BC did penetrate to the basket, that rather than shoot in the lane, BC kicked the ball out to the perimeter for threes. He also got away with playing Joe Rahon on CJ Fair the vast majority of the night. Fair responded with 20 points and 11 rebounds but really took a poor shot on the last real SU possession.
-- I actually heard Donahue tell Ryan Anderson once to play angry when he caught the ball at the high post.