Surprising Eagles get it done
Win over Hokies makes it 2 straight
In a season that’s seen its share of frustrations and growing pains, things are beginning to come together for a young and athletic Boston College team.
Two games is a small sample size, but after yesterday’s 61-59 win over Atlantic Coast Conference foe Virginia Tech, the Eagles have won two straight and aren’t playing like a squad full of freshmen.
“I’m just really proud of the guys,’’ said BC coach Steve Donahue. “I thought we really did similar things to what we did in Thursday’s win [59-57 over Clemson]. It was a great carry over.
“I just think it’s another step in watching these guys grow individually and collectively. These guys are very intelligent players. It’s just a matter of gaining experience before you’ll start seeing really good basketball here consistently.’’
The Eagles (7-10, 2-1) took advantage of a Virginia Tech team that opened the game 1 for 8 from the field, playing without leading scorer Erick Green (16.1 points per game), who sprained his left knee in practice Thursday.
Trailing by 5 with 2 minutes remaining in the first, the Eagles went on a 9-3 run to close the half with a 29-27 lead, in the process waking up the crowd of 5,038 at Conte Forum.
The Eagles continued to play solid in the second half and took an 11-point lead into the final five minutes, before allowing the Hokies (11-6, 0-3) to knock down a couple of late threes and make the game look closer than it really was.
Dennis Clifford led all scorers with 15 points. The 7-foot freshman rebounded from a shaky first half (three turnovers) to score 9 points without a giveaway in the second.
Freshman Ryan Anderson finished with 12 points and eight rebounds and Matt Humphrey had 14 points and eight caroms.
The Eagles were able to neutralize the effect of their 18 turnovers by forcing 19 Hokies miscues.
Jordan Daniels ended the first half on a 5-0 run, burying a three and connecting on a 20-foot floater as time expired.
“Early in the season, one of our weaknesses was the end of the halves,’’ said Donahue. “I thought that was a huge step [for us], because the game could have gotten away from us a little right there. It was just a huge 5-point swing in that stretch.’’
Humphrey got the Eagles rolling again midway through the second period. The junior drove the lane and missed his shot, but tipped the rebound home. He then stole the ensuing inbounds pass and brought many of the fans at Conte to their feet with the jam, putting BC up, 39-34.
The Eagles extended their lead to 11 with 4 minutes remaining. But three straight turnovers and two Robert Brown 3-pointers got the Hokies within striking distance with 2:19 remaining at 58-53.
“I told them [during a timeout] when we were up 8, that we had a chance to really put our foot on their throat right then,’’ said Donahue. “In the back of my mind I don’t think that we’re good enough to do that to a team as good as Virginia Tech right now, but I wanted to send that message - you’ve got to have that [kind of mentality] to win.’’
Lonnie Jackson heard Donahue’s message and came up with a crucial steal with 41 seconds remaining to force the Hokies to foul.
BC went 3 for 6 from the line in the closing seconds, just to keep things interesting, even turning the ball over on their final possession, but time ran out before Virginia Tech could attempt a tying shot.
“It’s not always going to be like this,’’ warned Donahue. “We’re going to have days when we’re scratching our heads. We’re going to be up and down.
“This [win] is real good for us though. We reacted well. We’re going to consistently get better, but there’s still going to be bumps in the road.’’