With the basket about 23 feet away and not a defender — or a teammate, for that matter — close to him, Olivier Hanlan stared down the rim as long as time would allow.
Boston College had found every imaginable way to miss from 3-point range, yet still managed to take a New Hampshire team that came in leading the America East in field goal defense, 3-point defense, and defensive rebounding to overtime.
For his part, Hanlan had already missed five 3-pointers to that point.
The Eagles’ long-distance reception had been low on bars all game. Patrick Heckmann, the team’s sharpest marksman, missed six 3-pointers, his frustration evident. Joe Rahon and Lonnie Jackson combined to miss seven.
The Eagles missed all 19 of their 3-point attempts in regulation, threatening the NCAA record Canisius set 17 years ago when it heaved up 22 3-pointers against St. Bonaventure without knocking down one.
Jackson snapped the cold streak with 2:19 left in overtime, pulling the Eagles within 2. And when Hanlan took a feed from Heckmann on the wing, he did his best to slow time down before letting go his purest shot of the day, one that led BC to a 61-59 win Sunday at Conte Forum.
“I was missing shots all game,” Hanlan said. “That one felt good. I stood there, I stayed there. It just felt good when it was going up, and I was hoping it went in.”
The Eagles (5-5) trailed by 13 with 10:54 left in regulation, a circumstance that normally would have left them doomed this season. They came in 0-4 when trailing with 10 minutes remaining.
Having been all but abandoned by the shot they rely so heavily upon, the Eagles went down low (24 points in the paint), got to the free throw line (5 of 7 ), and pounded the glass (30 rebounds and 16 second-chance points) in the second half to get back in the game.
“I thought this was one of the guttier games, grittier games, since I’ve been here,” said coach Steve Donahue.
BC had beaten UNH 12 straight times going back to 1986, but with Ferg Myrick’s scoring (21 points), and their defensive intensity, the Wildcats (4-6) had every opportunity to bring the streak to an end.
Down, 31-23, at halftime, Donahue told his players, “They’re going to guard you. They’re one of the best defensive-percentage teams in the country right now. It’s going to go down to the end of the shot clock, you’ve got to embrace that.”
Early in the second half, BC’s Ryan Anderson appeared to be on a mission. But he nearly sabotaged the comeback efforts with a technical foul for smacking the backboard after a dunk that cut BC’se deficit to 33-28.
“We were making a run, just a lot of emotions going into the game,” Anderson said. “It was a dumb play by me that broke up our momentum, but I’m glad we got it back and continued to play.”
Anderson was the antidote for the Eagles’ poor shooting, scoring 14 of his game-high 23 points, and grabbing 16 of his career-high 19 rebounds (eight offensive) in the second half and overtime, feeding off putbacks.
“The longer shots just give me a better chance to come inside and gives a better chance for me to get the rebound,” Anderson said. “I always hope it goes in, but I attack the glass after too, just in case it doesn’t.”
If Donahue could pin the poor shooting on anything, it was finals week. His players hadn’t been in the gym, hadn’t been getting shots up.
But by and large, Donahue had no problem with his team’s shot selection. The Eagles went from a team that took 16 3-pointers a game to one that put up nearly 24 in Donahue’s first season (2010-11). Last season, they averaged 21, and this season they’re hovering around the same clip.
For Donahue, though, make or miss, not even 21 is enough. If anything, he wants to see the Eagles shoot up to 25 3-pointers a game.
“When you’re really good, you can worry about, ‘Shots aren’t going in. That’s how we play. We should shoot [a certain percentage],’ ” Donahue said. “But when you’re just trying to go possession to possession, in all honesty, it’s, ‘Hey, we missed it, [but] we ran good offense.’ I thought we got good looks . . . It’s not a pretty game or anything, but there was a great lesson here.”