By Seth Lakso Globe Correspondent
Olivier Hanlan knew it was short the moment he released it.
With a half-second remaining on the clock and Boston College trailing the University of Miami by 3 points, Hanlan managed to draw a foul as he attempted a desperation three.
The freshman guard then stepped to the line and made his first free throw — which bounced off both the front and back rim before dropping mercifully through the net. Hanlan’s next shot found its way through in similar fashion and set up a chance to send the game to overtime.
However, his final attempt came up just short and the Eagles fell in heartbreaking fashion, 60-59, in front of 3,624 at Conte Forum on Wednesday night.
“There’s not much you can say there,” said BC coach Steve Donahue, whose squad dropped to 9-8 on the season and 1-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. “It’s as difficult a situation as you can put someone in. The game’s riding on three made foul shots. It’s not like you’re going to win — you need them just to tie.
“I’m just so proud of [Hanlan] and the attitude he has,” Donahue continued. “He’s not comfortable at the line right now, although he went 7 for 7 last game. You could tell tonight he wasn’t his normal self and he just didn’t get a great stroke on the last one. But I don’t know where we’d be without him.”
Hanlan, who went 5 of 10 from the line against the Hurricanes, led the Eagles with 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists. Sophomore Lonnie Jackson (4 of 8 from behind the arc) chipped in 16 points.
The loss was BC’s third to a conference opponent by 5 points or fewer this season (they lost to N.C. State by 5 and Wake Forest by 3) and showed that although the Eagles — who start three sophomores and two freshmen — are improving, they’re still not quite where they want to be.
“All three of [the ACC losses], foul shooting’s been an issue,” said Donahue. “And our execution, not necessarily on the last possession, but maybe the last two minutes of the game, we haven’t been as sharp as we need to be, but darn I think we’re very close . . . We’ll get these [wins] with this group.”
Miami moved to 4-0 in the ACC, its best start since it joined the conference in the 2004-05 season. With N.C. State dropping its first ACC game of the season on Wednesday to Maryland, the Hurricanes moved into sole possession of first place in the conference.
Durand Scott led Miami (13-3) with 15 points, including four critical free throws in the final minute of play. Shane Larkin, son of baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, added 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.
A back-and-forth first half had five ties and five lead changes, with the Eagles taking a 28-26 edge into the locker room.
Hanlan began the second half with an old-fashioned 3-point play to put the Eagles up, 31-26.
Then BC went cold, failing to score for the next 5:01, while Miami ran off 10 straight points, highlighted by a Julian Gamble (6 points) put-back dunk to take a 36-31 lead with 14:20 to play.
A 3-pointer by Jackson finally snapped the skid, as the Eagles responded by running off 11 straight to take a 42-36 lead with 12:11 to play.
With 1:07 left, Jackson hit two free throws to put the Eagles up, 57-56. The Hurricanes countered with two free throws from Scott to go up 1 with 25 seconds to play.
On the Eagles’ ensuing possession, Joe Rahon was whistled for a offensive foul on Scott as he attempted to clear space.
“The guy pressured me,” said Rahon. “I had to pop out a little farther than I would have liked to. I caught it with him on my back and I tried to pivot to clear space and I guess my shoulder hit him in the chin or something and the ref saw that as me clearing space with elbows and he blew the foul.
“I’ll need to see the tape to see if it was that blatant, but in my mind I was just trying to clear some space to be able to control the ball.”
Scott converted two free throws to give Miami a 3-point edge with 10 seconds to play.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Donahue. “I’m really proud of our effort. The kids [executed] the game plan to a T.
“We competed, defended, executed on offense against a good defensive team, and just came up short at the end.”