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MEN'S BASKETBALL: Down And Out

Hanlan's Strong Effort Not Enough In Loss To UNC

Sports Editor

Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 22:01

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Graham Beck / Heights Editor

 

Olivier Hanlan hit the floor hard, and as he lay on his back he let out a long grimace. He had returned to earth, moments earlier easing his way past North Carolina guards then soaring into the air for a finger-roll that rimmed out before a foul was eventually called.

It wouldn’t matter, though. Hanlan peeked at the scoreboard before getting up.

There was less than a minute left with Boston College basketball down 12 and the once packed student section behind him starting to clear out.

He took care of business, like he had all night, sinking the two free throws, but UNC went on to score on the next possession and cruised to a 82-70 victory.

Every time Hanlan tried to will his team into contention with the Tar Heels on Tuesday, something beyond his control went wrong.

After jumping out to an early lead, BC allowed UNC to grab a 21-12 advantage midway through the first half. Unfazed by the moment and the pressure, Hanlan drilled a three with a hand in his face to end the Tar Heel run and bring the Eagles back within reach.

His efforts were negated seconds later, as the BC bigs allowed one of the 13 UNC offensive rebounds on the night to turn into points. From that point on, the game turned into a tug-of-war between Hanlan’s offensive ability and his teammates’ deficiencies on both ends of the court.

Hanlan stripped UNC point guard Marcus Paige on the way to the rim a few minutes later and then tried to get a fast break started, but the Eagles didn’t run with him and Danny Rubin eventually turned the ball over. Fellow freshman guard Joe Rahon then allowed Paige to drive past him from midcourt all the way to the rim before giving up a soft foul leading to an and-one bucket.

Hanlan, who played 37 minutes in the loss and contributed 22 points along with six boards and three assists, is still cruising past the freshman wall that Rahon has hit lately.

“Joe [Rahon] has probably hit a bit of a wall here in the league play, ” Donahue said, “but I think he’s really competing.”

Rahon and the rest of the Eagles put in the effort Tuesday night, but there was also widespread hesitancy on the offensive end. Clean looks were taken a split-second too late. Open passes weren’t thrown because the gaps closed before a decision was made. Dribbles that should’ve been at the rim were taken toward the sideline. North Carolina came in to Conte Forum unranked, but the moment, with the first packed house of the season, still felt big.

And Hanlan was the only one to step up.

“I knew they were going to be aggressive so I was just trying to be aggressive like every other game,” Hanlan said. “I was getting by guys and I was trying to find Lonnie [Jackson], or whoever was open, open shots, but they played good defense on me too.”

Hanlan had his way with Paige and UNC’s other guards on the perimeter. Time after time he would slow down the offense, call for the ball, set up a pick-and-roll, and then easily make his way into the lane. As the defense collapsed around him, though, it constantly became more difficult to get up good shots with four or five defenders focused on his penetration. Sometimes he found a way to finish, but other times he’d have to kick it out and the offense would stall again.

BC never got closer than within 10 points of the Tar Heels in the second half, yet Hanlan never let the game get away from the Eagles either. UNC would stretch the lead, but Hanlan always answered with a sweet floater or an aggressive attack leading to free throws.

Closing the margin to single-digits was the problem. The deficit always proved too insurmountable to be taken down by a lone freshman guard.

Sophomore center Dennis Clifford’s injury has put a significant burden on everyone else to play longer and perform better. Hanlan is doing that, and if the wins are going to come over the big name schools in front of the full crowds, the other young Eagles will have to catch up to his pace.  

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