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COLUMN: Finding Victories In Their Defeat

Sports Editor

Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013

Updated: Sunday, March 17, 2013 21:03

 

If offseason workouts started at 2:13 on Friday, it looked like the Boston College men’s basketball team would have been okay with it.

Every member of the team carried himself like Power Gym was waiting at the other end of the tunnel in Greensboro Coliseum.

They came within three minutes of an upset over top-seeded Miami and a visit to the ACC Tournament semifinals, but when it was all over, their faces were more determined than demised.

When Olivier Hanlan’s shot flew wide left against Duke in February, those faces showed shock and heartbreak. When Bryant stole a victory at Conte Forum in November those faces showed anger.

All these faces showed yesterday was a business trip cut short and more work to be done. No one collapsed onto the hardwood in defeat. No one had to be coaxed into the handshake line. There were a few assuring fist bumps with reminders to keep their heads up, a few knowing nods, and a confident understanding that they weren’t going to let this happen again. A season had ended, but for them nothing was close to finished.

“Oh there’s no doubt about that,” freshman guard Joe Rahon said when asked if the loss added extra motivation for the summer. “All the close games we had this year that we lost, it definitely gives motivation and it just shows us how good we can be if we keep heading in the right direction. We’re excited for the offseason to work hard and to get in the gym again.”

Rahon spoke with confidence, not breaking eye contact and not allowing emotion from the loss to creep in. He was disappointed, but he was also proud.

“I think we accomplished our goals,” Rahon said. “Our goals were to definitely improve in the ACC and we came in eighth so after a slow start that was a good finish for us. We finished around .500 with our record. All in all I think was a pretty successful season considering we are so young and where we were last year, but it’s tough to swallow this game knowing we were so close in the last five minutes and we just kind of let it get away.”

Sophomore forward Eddie Odio, who had a breakout year, also saw the positives after a difficult defeat.

“It was an exciting season,” Odio said. “I was just glad I was able to bring more energy to the court and help my team. I definitely need to improve my shooting. I’ve been working on it a lot in practice but they haven’t been falling in the games, and I just need to be more confident.”

The positives came more slowly to head coach Steve Donahue.

“I think when I take a step back I’ll be extremely pleased and proud of our development this year,” he said. “These guys have done a tremendous job of working through a lot of things. Basically our core group, our eight scholarship players, are freshmen and sophomores. I just thought we did an incredible job over the last month and a half of really starting to play and believe and compete. I’m very excited for the future.”

There won’t be postseason play for this team. Donahue has ruled out the CBI or the CIT, and the sub .500 record knocks the Eagles out of NIT contention. The loss will sting, but that pain and the constant reminder of failed execution might be the best way to go out.

“We did a poor job,” Donahue said of his team’s play down the stretch. “I said to these guys that winners want the truth. That’s the truth. You can spin it any way you want, but if you want to win that basketball game you’ve got to execute better and we didn’t and they did.”

Olivier Hanlan didn’t need to hear it. He knew. Hanlan has a difficult demeanor after losses, especially when he doesn’t have very good games. He’s dismissive, but not to others. He’s dismissive about himself and his own performance.

“Miami did a terrific job on me, and I had a hard time,” Hanlan said. “I could have done more today, but I had a bad game.”

He speaks quickly and turns his head away when he’s done with his brief comments. His statements trail off with an open-ended “So...,” and most of those statements are filled with his own shortcomings. Although it looked like Rahon allowed Miami’s Shane Larkin to get wide-open for a dagger three late in the game, Hanlan shares that he missed the assignment. Donahue then jumps in to save face for his point guard. Strangely it’s not out of concern over Hanlan’s confidence, which seems unbreakable, but rather to stop the freshman before he lets anyone else think the loss was his fault.

Then there was the captain, who shouldered more pain than the rest of them. Sitting in the locker room, sophomore center Dennis Clifford couldn’t take his head out of his hands. The second year of his career had passed him by, and he never got a real chance to improve or help his team. Against a dominating Miami frontcourt, Clifford could only come in to give the other bigs temporary rest. All of his team’s close losses hurt him even worse, knowing their captain’s knee may have been the difference.

Yet even he eventually walked out with his head up. His team had come within three minutes of being among the last four teams standing in the ACC. With the core group not going anywhere for the next two years, the only thing to do was get back to work.

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