WASHINGTON- One look at Dennis Clifford in the post-game press conference following the Boston College Eagles' 88-66 loss to the Florida State Seminoles in the first round of the ACC Tournament told the story of a season.
Eyes red, tears falling down his face, Clifford appeared visibly shaken following the last game of his career at BC.
It was an end result that seemed inevitable for the Eagles. After all, BC went 0-18 in conference play during the regular season, in games ranging from heartbreaking, last second nail-biters to absurd, double-digit point laughers. Number 19 seemed almost academic.
Yet loss number 19 was cruel. It was the screeching halt to a career of a fifth-year senior who had only just begun to get his legs under him
One could forgive Clifford for getting a little bit emotional. He deserved better.
"Like I said a million times, I don't know if [Clifford's] going down as one of the best players to play at Boston College," BC coach Jim Christian said. "But if you line him up with all of the great players, look at what he's done, look at the way he's represented himself and this school, I couldn't be prouder of a human being than I am of him."
Dennis Clifford's career effectively ended with 9:28 left in the second half, on a shooting foul. The 30:32 preceding was a tale of a cat chasing an elusive mouse. A back and forth contest for the first three-quarters of the game, the Seminoles took the lead for good on a free throw by Malik Beasley. From that point on the Eagles were playing a catch up game.
"At that point [it] was some individual defensive mistakes," Christian said. "They drove us one-on-one a little bit. It was turnovers. We really had a lot of ball-handling, passing, catching turnovers. You can't do that with them. Live-ball turnovers for them, they're so good and they're so athletic on the break, that really hurt."
The second half produced much of the same. The Seminoles garnered a double digit lead, but the Eagles were able to keep pace.
Then Clifford fouled out, and the team's fire appeared to go out with the senior captain.
The Eagles finished the season winless in the conference, much like Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton had in 1993-1994 as head coach of the Miami Hurricanes.
"[Christian's] doing a great job," Hamilton said. "He runs an offense that's very difficult to defend. His kids are fighting, everybody tooth and toenail…It's just a matter of time that he turns that thing around."
For the Eagles, the loss is biting, but with a team that's a year older, it's possible that Hamilton's optimism may come to fruition.
For Dennis Clifford, however, the support will come too late.