Freshmen Lead Eagles Past Penn State Pressure

(Photo by Graham Beck/Heights Editor)

By Steven Principi, Heights Staff

In its first true road win since the spring of 2011, the Boston College men’s basketball team managed to get back on track after an ugly loss to Bryant with a 73-61 win over Penn State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday night in State College. 

The Eagles were led by freshmen guards Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon on the offensive end and also received some solid bench play from Lonnie Jackson and Andrew Van Nest. 

Both teams started off slow from the field in the first half, but BC managed to find its stroke first. A Jackson three and a dunk by Ryan Anderson opened up a 10-2 lead early on before PSU began making  shots. While neither team played at its best on offense, the first half turned into a back and forth affair.  Van Nest made a late 3-pointer to give the Eagles a 10-point lead, but the Nittany Lions hit one of their own just before the buzzer and BC went into the break leading 31-24.  Head coach Steve Donahue was pleased with his team’s effort in the first half and spoke about the Eagles’ high level of intensity.

“I thought we came out with the right mindset,” Donahue said. “We had the energy level that you need to compete and I think that’s something that hasn’t been consistent with us this year. I thought we did a great job of really coming out and playing hard, playing physical, and playing with great passion.”

The Eagles came out hot in the second half and looked ready to bury PSU. Hanlan, Rahon, and Jackson led the offense for BC, who saw its lead grow as high as 20 points with just over five minutes to play.

The Eagles then fell victim to Penn State’s full court press and struggled to move the ball past half court. Several turnovers and some timely shooting from the Nittany Lions cut the lead to as little as three in just more than two minutes.  It was a concerning stretch for the BC, who saw a number of games get out of hand last season due to similar struggles. Donahue said the late run was concerning, but he appreciated the way his team responded.

“I think that was a lot of crazy things that happened all at once,” Donahue said. “Obviously we didn’t handle the pressure, but they made shots and got fouled a lot. I was impressed because when they cut it to three, there were still three minutes left in the game. We were able to regain our composure and go on another run. Obviously we’re disappointed it got that way, but on the road when that happens with three minutes left, you’re concerned you’re not going to recover at all.”

Hanlan came to the rescue for BC. Time after time he managed to get to the basket, driving by Penn State’s defense with ease on consecutive possessions. With the lead at three, Hanlan drove to the basket and made a layup while being fouled, pushing the lead back up to six. On the next possession, he drew three defenders towards him and hit a wide open Van Nest for an easy dunk.  From there, he and Rahon managed to control the ball much better and hit their free throws to put the game away.  Donahue was particularly impressed with the play of his two freshmen.

“I think they’re going to have to be the guys who have to do it,” Donahue said. “I think they’ve shown already early in their career that they’re guys we can rely on to make good decisions and handle the ball. And they’ll keep getting better and their decision making isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty impressive what they’re doing early.”