Boston College opened ACC Tournament play with a 80-62 win over Louisville that belies how close this game was at times.
The big storyline going into this one was ACC Most Improved Player Quinten Post’s injured ankle, and after not participating in the pregame warmups he was revealed to be out for the contest. TJ Bickerstaff slid into his starting spot for the matchup.
Without Post, Louisville went early and often down low. Louisville’s Huntley-Hatfield scored 6 early points in the first 3 minutes (11 first-half points), all in the paint. BC’s offense, meanwhile, did not get on the board until almost 3 minutes into the game via a Bickerstaff layup. McGlockton quickly followed with a 3, but those 2 shots were the only to fall of the Eagles first 8.
Despite the slow offensive start, the Eagles took their first lead following an open Makai trey to put BC up 8-6. He started to heat up with another 3, and slowly BC started to get a feel offensively. Chas Kelley found Devin McGlockton with a beautiful lob pass for a layup under the basket, and midway through the first half BC led 13-10.
With 8:49 left in the half, both teams had already collected 5 team fouls and on the ensuing possession Ashton-Langford got whistled on a block, giving him his third personal merely over a quarter into the game. Despite the foul trouble, the Eagles still held a 4 point lead following a clean midrange jumper from Prince with 8 minutes in the half. DeMarr Langford, making his return from illness, followed Prince’s midrange with a tough turnaround of his own, and the momentum built into a quick 10-1 run for the Eagles, including Zackery’s first 2 points.
Louisville quickly answered with a 10-0 run of their own following a three and FTs in the same possession after a questionable call on Bickerstaff off the ball. With 2:28 to play in the half, the teams were knotted at 27 as BC’s offense went cold and they continued to commit unnecessary fouls. With just over a minute to play, El Ellis finished an and-1 after drawing the foul on McGlockton, and Louisville took the lead 32-31. As the half ended with Louisville leading 34-31, the BC of the early portion of the season reared its ugly head. The offense defaulted to 1-on-1s and stupid deep shots from the likes of Prince and Penha, the defense seemingly could not stop fouling, and the careless turnovers returned. Despite Ellis being held to 5 points, Louisville still managed to hang 34 on the Eagles. It was a terrible close to the half, which left a lot to improve in the second period.
After taking a seat for the last 8 minutes of the first half, Makai returned to the court to open the second half. It was Devin McGlockton’s bully-ball down low producing early results, as he converted a nice layup to open the second half. The offense for the Eagles found a little groove to open the second half, with Bickerstaff scoring 2 FTs and an and-1 from Aligbe also falling. Despite the offense picking up, however, the defense continued to struggle. Despite switching to a zone, Louisville continued to answer BC bucket for bucket as El Ellis began to heat up. Heading into the first timeout of the second half, BC trailed 43-41.
As much as BC struggled with foul issues in the first half, however, Louisville fell into the same rut early in the second. With 13 minutes to play, the Cards had already committed 8 fouls and the Eagles had taken a 49-45 lead, largely driven by FTs and a nice spinning layup from Zackery. He really began to drive BC’s offense, aggressively attacking the lane while also facilitating. He found a wide-open Prince under the basket, who dunked home the basket and gave BC a 3 point edge. A few possessions later, meanwhile, Makai attacked through two defenders and jellied home a ridiculous circus layup to push BC’s lead to 55-48.
After scoring the basket, however, Makai then committed his 4th personal and got pulled from the game. With 7:44 to play, BC led 57-51 with the advantage of the bonus on their side. Defensively, they continued to leak open shots along the rim and a breakdown allowed for an open dunk, but the Eagles had managed to create at least a bit of separation.
Mason Madsen delivered a huge momentum jolt with a gritty offensive rebound at around the 6:50 mark. He got the ball back in the corner and splashed the triple, putting the Eagles up 61-51. On BC’s next possession, he blew by his defender and layed it off the glass for 5 straight points. BC dominated the offensive boards in the second half, giving BC’s offense multiple opportunities to score. Zackery continued his aggressive play with a putback layup, before scoring through the contact for the and-1 to put BC up by 13.
Louisville would not go away, however. They cut the deficit to 9 with 3 minutes to play, making life tough on BC with a full-court press. Earl Grant reinstated Makai and his 4 fouls for his ballhandling and experience, and two FTs from him kept Louisville at arm’s length. After some very uncomfortable moments, BC slammed the door and went on to win 80-62.
The Eagles are back in action tomorrow against UNC. Roll Eags.