BC Squeaks By Auburn

By Chris Marino, Assoc. Sports Editor

On Wednesday, the Boston College men’s basketball team pulled off a close 50-49 victory against the Auburn Tigers at Conte Forum. The Eagles were led by their freshman backcourt of Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon, while scoring leader Ryan Anderson struggled to overcome a lingering foot injury. Hanlan ended with a game-high 19 points, while Rahon was equally as pivotal to the outcome with 15 points. While the home squad led by as much as eight in the second half, the contest proved to be a battle of wills until the final buzzer.

“At the team meeting yesterday, we talked the things that winning teams do,” Rahon said. “We talked about making tough plays, and giving it for all 40 minutes. Then we all went home last night and watched Butler give it to North Carolina. They played hard. They did all the little things. They battled on the boards. They were able to beat a team that’s more talented than they are. We started texting each other, texting around, saying, ‘That’s how we have to play.’ So we came out here with a bulldog mentality, and hopefully we’re going to keep that for the rest of the year.”

The first half saw Hanlan and Rahon act as the main catalysts behind the BC scoring effort. The squad’s typical scorers—Anderson, Dennis Clifford and Lonnie Jackson—went a combined 0-for-10 from the field, while their freshman teammates combined to go 7-for-13 from the floor and 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. The Eagles struggled to penetrate the lane in the early portion of the game, and were forced to play mostly around the perimeter.

Head coach Steve Donahue was impressed with the pair’s leadership today, and believes that they will continue to contribute to making the offense more effective.

“Our guards had great confidence,” he said. “They have really good basketball IQ. The thing I asked them to do today was manage the game. I think they have the ability to do that for us, and it’s going to keep getting better. We still don’t have an identity sometimes on the offensive end. The ball gets moved around and we wonder why that guy takes a shot. I think everybody occasionally does that. Where’s the flow? Where are our roles? That comes with times and chemistry. These two guys, I just think, are all around basketball players that are going to be terrific in this league.”

Hanlan contributed early, hitting two straight 3-pointers to start the Eagles’ scoring. Rahon added a few outside shots himself, while the rest of the starters were unable to get anything going from the field. Despite a lack of size for Auburn, Clifford only attempted one shot in the half, and looked to pass before shooting on most possessions. Anderson, despite going 0-for-5 and 1-for-4 from the free throw line at the half, finished with six of his seven rebounds.

“I think Ryan had a lot to do with us winning,” Donahue said. “It could’ve been easy for him not to play. Obviously, he was nowhere near 100 percent, but he competed, and got seven rebounds. We just don’t have the depth to do that and win this game. I know it looks in the box score like he didn’t do much, he’s just not healthy. Obviously foul shots and not shooting well from the field, but seven rebounds in limited minutes is huge in a game like this.”

The half saw 12 lead changes, but it appeared that the Eagles would finish on top after Rahon drilled a three from the corner to give his team the 22-19 advantage and then followed with a midrange jumper to extend the lead. With one second left, however, the Tigers’ Frankie Sullivan sank a 3-pointer to give his team the 26-25 halftime lead. The Eagles finished the half shooting 32 percent from the floor, but were 41.7 percent from three-point range. Auburn shot 46 percent, however it was 2-of-7 on 3-pointers.

In the second half, Hanlan continued to control the game with a strong shooting stroke. There were large lulls in the scoring from both sides. With 15 minutes left in the half, Clifford backed his defender in the paint and spun around for the hook shot and put his team up 35-28. The Eagles would not score again for five minutes. The Tigers were stagnant during this period as well, helping BC maintain its lead.

With the minutes winding down, Auburn finally began to mount the comeback. Sullivan proved to be a formidable scoring option against the Eagles. He finished the game with 23 points, including 15 in the second frame. The Tigers got the score to within three, but then Anderson hit two free throws and Hanlan hit a jumper to extend the score to seven. A 3-pointer by Noel Johnson and two successful free throws for Rob Chubb lessened the deficit to two for the visiting squad.

After some more back and forth from both sides, Sullivan went for the three-point shot with his team down by four. Rahon came up too aggressively on his man, and knocked Sullivan down. The shot was good, and Sullivan made the foul shot to tie it up.

“I was mad at myself about that,” Rahon said. “The kid hit a great shot. I just wanted to go down, and either make a play for a teammate or make a play for myself or do something for redemption.”

On the next play, Hanlan drove to the lane and was fouled on the drive. He made the first free throw but missed the second, giving his team the one-point lead. Sullivan let the clock wind down before taking a desperation three, but the shot was no good.

“I thought it was a physical game for sure, and I thought we played hard with the little things that for us are important like outrebounding a team like that,” Donahue said. “I think that’s a typical, physical ACC team that we face. We outrebounded them, and turn it over 12 times. I thought we really competed with them physically. We just weren’t making shots, although I think we had a lot of open ones. For the most part, I thought we really competed.”

The Eagles entered the game with a three-game losing streak in the Charleston Classic, and were attempting to head into the Thanksgiving break with a win. For Donahue and his team, this win was much needed after such a challenging stretch.

“Obviously, it’s tough to go anywhere and lose three straight, but I think we’ve made great progress,” Donahue said. “We’re going to have failure. This isn’t going to be easy, but what I like is that these guys were really determined to try to get a win. Anytime you get a win it’s huge but I just don’t want to get caught up in the results. It’s still not there yet.”

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