COLUMN: Despite The Loss, Eagles Prove They Belong
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 17, 2013 02:01
The first free throw bounced around a bit before mercifully dropping through the hoop. The second attempt did much the same before choosing a similar fate. The third free throw met the front end of the rim and sent Jim Larranaga’s Miami Hurricanes home with a victory that many would argue they did not deserve.
Steve Donahue’s squad may have added to their loss column, but for a team that relies primarily upon a rotation of seven underclassmen, there is such a thing as a moral victory. As Olivier Hanlan’s final free throw went begging, the Eagles dropped to 9-8 on the campaign, but they began to demonstrate the first signs of a consistent ability to compete with the rest of the ACC.
Coming into this season, Donahue’s third on the Heights, there have been quiet doubts voiced around this program that perhaps the time had come to ask some questions of the progress made since the departure of former head coach Al Skinner. Some had questioned whether coach Donahue’s recruiting efforts were sufficient to keep up with the rest of the ACC.
However, after watching Hanlan’s ball miss net, it is apparent that Donahue’s team is ready to beat back the doubters.
If this game is remembered, it will be as the game that Hanlan could not send to overtime. That is just how sports work. The reality of the situation is that on a night where BC’s best player, forward Ryan Anderson, did not have his best outing, two of his guards where there to pick him up.
Every time Hanlan accelerated into the paint, slashing fearlessly to the hoop in the face of one of Miami’s five big men over 6-10, the crowd sat a little further forward in their seats. Hanlan’s drives opened up just the right amount of room on the perimeter for the more reserved Lonnie Jackson, who scored 16 points on the strength of four 3-pointers.
Hanlan and Jackson are a fun duo to watch, but more importantly they are Donahue’s fun duo to watch. Those two, along with fellow guard Joe Rahon and forward Ryan Anderson, hold the key to Donahue’s future on the Heights.
“I’m excited about getting back and getting better,” Donahue said. “I love coaching these guys and I love watching them develop. I’m excited about another challenge. This group will continue to get better. I’m convinced of that 100 percent.”
Larranaga’s Miami squad came to Chestnut Hill looking the easy favorite to run the Eagles right out of their own gym. The Hurricanes featured the aforementioned big men, as well as a 12-3 record and ten upperclassmen.
Donahue’s Eagles not only led most of the way, but they were able to control large periods of time and possession. Miami may have been the more talented team top to bottom, but it was Larranaga who was clearly outclassed. Donahue gave a clinic on how to do more with less, and in the end it was a few turnovers and efficient free throw shooting that rescued Larranaga’s team.
“I thought it was a really hard-fought game, I’m really proud of our effort,” said the coach of the game. “The kids played the gameplan to a T. They competed, defended and executed very well on offense against a pretty good defensive team. We just came up short at the end.”
Watching a disappointed Donahue reminisce on what might have been, one can immediately sense how personally invested he is in the on and off the court success of these players. After two and a half years leading the Eagles, he has finally put together a core of players that can consistently put a scare into the rest of the ACC powerhouses.
Behind the young guys, it appears that BC basketball’s rebuilding process is becoming something else. Those calling for Donahue’s head are doing so prematurely, and these young Eagles are beginning to prove that they, along with their coach, belong at the table with the rest of the ACC.