Boston College pulled out a huge, come-from-behind 70-63 win over the Irish on Tuesday night to return to .500 in ACC play.
Notre Dame controlled the opening tip, and star freshman J.J. Starling drilled a step-back triple to strike first. Makai Ashton-Langford answered with a nice pump fake into a pull-up midrange bucket, but it was the Irish with the early momentum as Starling scored another bucket along with a Dane Goodwin triple.
Earl Grant responded to ND’s early 10-2 lead by inserting Quinten Post into the game, and the senior center immediately made his presence felt. Many thought Post would have a breakout year after an excellent season off the bench last year that ultimately resulted in a All-ACC Tournament selection, but injuries meant that Post did not see action until the Syracuse game last week. He transforms this BC team, and against ND – a team that struggles to defend the paint – he quickly collected four points and several boards. With 14:10 in the half, ND led 13-9.
DeMarr Langford Jr. – who has struggled this season – flashed his athleticism with a tough turnaround midrange jumper, and BC’s much-maligned offense was clicking fairly well though the first ten minutes of the contest. Devin McGlockton, however, blew a wide-open dunk that would have tied the game at 17 and instead led to a Dane Goodwin bucket at the other end. With 9:07 to play in the half, ND led 21-17.
Despite the great offensive showing, BC’s defense suffered multiple breakdowns along the perimeter and ND made the Eagles pay. Starling and Goodwin, in particular, were hot with 12 and 15 points, respectively, in the half. Without freshman F Ven Lubin, however, who came up hobbled around 7 minutes into the game, ND was missing a big piece of its frontcourt. The Eagles had multiple opportunities to make a run and take the lead, but defensive breakdowns and poor shot selection from BC allowed ND to hold a 27-23 lead with 5:25 to play. The Eagles are a very poor three-point team, and that has hurt them against better defenses. Against the smaller Irish, however, the Eagles slowly began to figure out the ND zone defense and attack the paint. Post, in particular, dominated and reached double figures with 10 points in the first half. However, on the other end, ND’s small and shifty guards attacked Post and continued to score at will. ND led 38-34 at the half, but BC’s offense had converted 8 of their last 9 shots and shot 60% overall from the floor.
Early on in the second half, BC’s offense struggled to replicate what worked so well in the first. They defaulted to over-dribbling, settling for 3s, and tough shots, and ND quickly pushed the lead to 10. Devin McGlockton – who has seen his role decrease with the return of Post, despite his great play – got a tough finish at the rim to fall, and BC trailed by 6 points 5 minutes into the second half. Just as in the first half, BC had opportunities but struggled to take advantage. ND went 1-8 on field goals over a five minute stretch, and instead of taking advantage BC then missed four straight layups. With 9:44 to play, ND led 50-43. Then both offenses broke scoreless droughts and began trading buckets down the stretch. Aligbe scored back-to-back layups, and with 6:38 to go ND’s lead was down to just 3 points. Zackery hit a free throw and then followed it up with a big-time layup to tie the game, but Starling and G Cormac Ryan answered immediately with back-to-back triples.
Two Aligbe free throws made it a 4-point contest with 3 minutes to play, but Zackery was called with a blocking foul on what looked like a charge on Starling. The ND freshman missed the one-and-one free throw, however, and Zackery hit a clutch and-1 bucket to trim the Irish lead again. Ryan answered for the Irish, before Prince Aligbe nailed a silky turnaround jumper. Back and forth both teams went, with 2 minutes on the clock. Mason Madsen – who has struggled mightily shooting the ball this season – hit a clutch midrange pull-up to give the Eags their first lead with 1:31 on the clock. Zackery then continued to attack by bullying straight to the rim and sinking the layup to give Boston College a 3 point lead with 36.7 seconds to play. Two Langford Jr. free throws followed by two more from Aligbe sealed the win, and BC closed out the nice ACC win 70-63.
Despite the inconsistent defense, despite the stop-and-start offense, Boston College pulled out the win. Jaeden Zackery, in particular, showed up big for the Eags with a season-high 18 points. He attacked with confidence, which was very promising to see from a player who has not seemed like himself for much of the season. Honestly, if Boston College just played smarter – finishes a layup instead of settling for a three, or not biting on a pump-fake – BC could have won much more comfortably. Post adds size and rebounding that was desperately needed, and if Zackery can build on this performance Boston College could be on the rise. Overall, a great win for the Eags and it is only sweeter that it comes against the Irish.