ACC Tournament: Slow Start Ends BC’s Season
(Photo by Daniel Lee / Heights Editor)
By Greg Joyce, Sports Editor
ATLANTA— A trying season came to a close on Thursday afternoon for the men’s basketball team, as Boston College dropped out of the ACC Tournament with a 78-57 loss to NC State. The Wolfpack jumped out to a 14-0 lead, a gap the Eagles could never close in their final game of the 2011-2012 season.
BC fought back throughout the first half and later in the second half to make it as close as a six-point deficit, but it could never fully recover from the slow start.
“I am obviously disappointed with our start,” head coach Steve Donahue said. “I thought we came out a little tentatively, just not sure of where we were going to get the points from. [NC State] got out to a 14-0, and I thought they were shaken by it.
“It was unfortunate, but I was pretty proud of that long stretch in the game where we were outscoring them and cutting it to eight or nine, things like that from that start. I think when that happens, it is just very difficult to overcome that kind of deficit, especially against a good basketball team.”
Ryan Anderson led BC with a double-double, scoring 22 points and racking up 12 rebounds, to show why he was a unanimous All-ACC Freshman.
The Eagles showed some composure in battling back from the initial deficit, as they played aggressive defense and started to improve their shot selection. A pair of threes from Lonnie Jackson made it 32-24 NC State, with 1:48 remaining in the first half.
That same score stood when BC took the ball up the court with the shot clock off and 30 seconds to play before halftime. While Donahue and his assistant coaches yelled out for the Eagles to take the last shot, Jordan Daniels turned the ball over for two easy Wolfpack points. The Eagles again brought the ball up, and again the Wolfpack stole the ball from Daniels, resulting in a deep three from C.J. Williams to make it 37-24. What could have been a five-point halftime lead for NC State quickly turned into a 13-point lead, one that was too much for BC to overcome in the second half.
“That was a killer for us, to give up five points like that,” Donahue said. “And they didn’t earn it. That was all the work we did kind of out the window.”
“We made a good push late in the first half,” Anderson added. “Turnovers are always going to hurt a team. It’s always good for a team to go into the half with momentum when you are trailing, and we were on that track. They took the momentum back late with those last two plays, and that gave them a lot of push going into the second half.”
The second half began with both teams exchanging baskets, as NC State allowed the Eagles to hang around. A Daniels three and a layup from Anderson cut the deficit to just six points, at 43-37 with 14:47 left in the game.
The dagger that ultimately ended BC’s season came with just over 10 minutes left, when Matt Humphrey and Dennis Clifford both missed put-back opportunities at the rim. The Wolfpack finally got the defensive rebound, and at the other end of the court, Scott Wood nailed one of his five 3-pointers to make it a 10-point lead for NC State. The Eagles would get within seven points a few minutes later, but never made it over the hump to completely erase the deficit.
“I think it was very frustrating for us,” Anderson said of being unable to close the gap. “We fought really hard in the second half, and I thought we played with a lot more energy than the first half, and the deficit was cut. We just didn’t make enough plays in the second half.”
“Yeah, I think we could have closed that gap, but then we made silly mistakes and big turnovers that lead to a three or a dunk,” Humphrey said. “It’s a momentum factor too. NC State got the momentum on their side, and they played with that.”
Continuing a trend of its season, BC was plagued by 19 turnovers, leading to 20 points for NC State.
“Terrible,” Donahue said of the turnovers. “I think that was our Achilles heel all year. Just not being great with the basketball. And once again, when we played well, we didn’t turn it over. We allowed them to bother us a lot more than I would have liked.”
Despite the frustrating end to a 22-loss season, Donahue and his players remained widely optimistic about the impact that this year can have on the future of the program.
“We’d all like to make great strides over the next six months,” Donahue said. “Just because we played a lot of freshmen doesn’t mean we are going to be a good basketball team next year. We’ve got to utilize that experience and now you know what the bar is set at, and you have to go out and improve. In general, I was extremely pleased with all of these guys, how they meshed as a group, and how we became competitive as the year went on.”
“A lot of us freshmen are tired and worn down from a long ACC season, and it is going to be good for us to get a little break,” Anderson said. “All of us are going to be really hungry after how that defeat just ended with tip dunks at the end of the game. That is really going to motivate us going into the offseason for the next six months, preparing for next season.”