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The Eagles gave the top-seeded Miami Hurricanes all they could handle but fell short in Greensboro, losing 69-58.
If Boston College is following some sort of blueprint to lull opposing teams to sleep, they are doing a damn fine job of it. And it would be nice if they could give fans a bit of a heads up.
The Eagles started the game as slow as they did against Georgia Tech. Only problem? Miami is not Georgia Tech. Donahue's boys misses their first five attempts from the floor -- including a pair of Ryan Anderson free throws -- to fall behind 13-2 with nearly five minutes gone in the first half. The Eagles were ice cold from the floor, shooting just 20 percent for most of the half and fumbling defensive rebound after defensive rebound to give the Canes a 21-8 lead at the game's 7:50 mark.
At the time, I Tweeted:
Steve Donahue has Miami right where he wants them, you guys. #ACCTourney— BC Interruption (@bcinterruption) March 15, 2013
Half-joking, of course, as I'm not entirely sure I actually believed it. Nevertheless, the Eagles stormed all the way back, closing on a 19-4 run to take a 27-25 lead to the locker room over the top-seeded Canes.
Boston College's run was sparked by a three ball from Lonnie Jackson -- whose been really quiet over the last few games -- and powered by the combination of Olivier Hanlan and Ryan Anderson. Hanlan, who had been quiet for much of the first half up until this point due to some fine defensive work by Miami's Shane Larkin and Durand Scott, took the game over -- added a pair of buckets in the waning minutes of the first half. Ryan Anderson, who had a forgettable first 15 minutes of the game, ended with a pair of buckets, including one on the final possession of the half, to give the Eagles the lead at half.
BC was also able to effectively shut down the Miami offense when Donahue switched up the defensive look. Donahue switched to a zone defense that Miami couldn't crack despite the Canes' rather large size advantage. The Hurricanes couldn't find a way to get the ball in the post and had to settle for jacking up threes. Miami went over six minutes of game time without a bucket. After starting the game 5-for-6 from the floor, Miami managed to finish the half just 4-for-24.
The second half started with a bit more back-and-forth. Both teams traded buckets to keep the BC lead to four at the under 16 timeout. The game seemed to swing with a little over 15 minutes left. Eddie Odio came down awkwardly on his leg while trying to grab a defensive board with the Eagles up 2. The Canes went on an 8-0 run to take the lead, exploiting the hole in the Eagles defense created by Odio's absence.
BC would manage to keep it close and Odio would return to the game a few minutes after heading to the locker room. Despite more than five minutes without a bucket, the score was tied at 50 with under five minutes to play, managing to keep pace with a number of points at the charity stripe.
After two bad BC possessions with less than two to go, a Shane Larkin three pointer put the Canes up five, putting the game out of reach. The Eagles would try to mount the comeback but it wasn't meant to be. A pair of Patrick Heckmann free throws both rimmed out; a fitting end to a season where fans are left to wonder what could have been with a little better free throw shooting.
Patrick Heckmann led all Eagles scorers with 15 points on 3-of-7 shooting. Yesterday's hero, ACC Rookie of the Year Olivier Hanlan, finished with 14 on 5-of-10 shooting. Anderson added 14, Jackson 6 and Rahon 5.
Have to credit the team for hanging tough with the ACC Tournament's top seed. A no. 8 seed hadn't upset a no. 1 in the ACC Tournament since the N.C. State Wolfpack upset top-seeded Duke in the 1997 ACC Tournament ... 16 years ago. And if we are really honest with ourselves, the Eagles were most certainly playing with house money this afternoon, even if I was strangely optimistic about this game before tip.
You can shelve the talk of moral victories. Losses are losses, but the Eagles acquitted themselves well in this group of players' second trip to the conference tournament.
Olivier Hanlan's individual performance yesterday, combined with putting a scare into top-seeded Miami, make Steve Donahue's third trip to the ACC Tournament an unqualified success. People are talking about Boston College basketball again, which will be sure to help the program on the recruiting trail and at the Conte Forum gate. There's a March buzz about this program that has been noticeably absent for two years now. The next step is to build on the momentum and hit the ground running in 2013-14.
With BC unlikely to accept an invitation to either the CBI or CIT, the Eagles end the year with a record of 16-17 (7-11 ACC); a year-over-year improvement of seven wins, three more in ACC play and one more in the ACC Tournament. Despite the frustrating early-season losses, the Eagles second half surge gives me the confidence to say that Donahue has the program headed in the right direction. I think Bates now believes this too, which is important to quell the hot seat talk a bit over the next two years as the Don continues to build.
More analysis / reactions on the Eagles' 2012-13 season next week. For now, leave your thoughts on the game below.