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MEN'S BASKETBALL: Last Second Heartbreak

Olivier Hanlan’s Last-Second Jumper Misses Wide Left As BC Upset Falls Short

Assoc. Sports Editor

Published: Monday, February 11, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 11, 2013 01:02

Chaos

Graham Beck / Heights Editor

 

With the shot clock turned off and the ball in BC’s hands, rookie guard Olivier Hanlan was poised to orchestrate a final play that would send the Eagles soaring above college basketball’s elite. He dribbled into a traffic-filled lane, pulled up, and let a jump shot roll off his finger tips as Conte Forum held its breath. Two points was all BC would need to crush Mike Kryzyzewski’s No. 4 Blue Devil squad, solidifying the program-defining victory Hanlan and his teammates have been fighting for.

Yet fate refused to deal the Boston College men’s basketball team a break in the final seconds of regulation last night, as it fell to Duke by a final score of 62-61.

“You got to take advantage of what [Duke] gives you,” said head coach Steve Donahue of Hanlan’s miss in the closing seconds, “and they’re so aggressive you got to go by them. They switch, and you have Ryan [Anderson] on a post-up. I think [Hanlan] could have went in there, but he takes another freshman off the dribble, he gets in the lane, and gets a pretty good look. He’s pretty good at those shots. I didn’t feel he was nervous for the moment.”

The Eagles had clawed their way into contention with the Blue Devils for all 40 minutes, catalyzing the nail-biter with a quick 13-5 run to start the game. When Duke battled back in the second half to claim the lead, Donahue’s squad quickly answered with a 10-1 scoring run sparked by a Ryan Anderson jump shot at the top of the key. After Hanlan converted a one-and-one opportunity at the stripe with 2:15 left to play in regulation, the Eagles had a 61-56 advantage over the Blue Devils and an opportunity to complete a monumental upset at home. 

Last night wasn’t the first time BC had taken a superior conference opponent down to the wire, and the Eagles followed the rookie guard’s free throws poised to leave its past struggles with sealing close games far behind.

Despite its efforts, BC couldn’t fend off the late-game resiliency that gives Duke a reputation as a national powerhouse. The Blue Devils’ Quinn Cook drilled a 3-pointer from the corner moments later, drawing the visiting team to within two points of BC’s lead after connecting on only his third shot of the entire night. After being fouled by Anderson, senior forward Mason Plumlee knocked down a pair of foul shots to tie the game at 61.

Meanwhile, the Eagle offense had suddenly stalled, as misses from Hanlan and Anderson were followed by an inaccurate Joe Rahon 3-point attempt that bounced off of the top of the backboard. Plumlee, who established his menacing presence down low for all 40 minutes, corralled the untimely misfire and drew a foul from Eddie Odio. Despite watching his first attempt bounce off the rim, the Duke veteran sank his second attempt with 24 seconds left on the clock. To Donahue, Duke’s game-clinching 6-0 scoring run was defined by the Devils’ execution rather than Eagle mistakes.

“As I said to these guys, we didn’t lose the game—Duke won the game,” Donahue said. “They made plays down the stretch. We didn’t play bad down the stretch, they just made more plays than us down the stretch and got it done.” 

Yet with 18 seconds to play, BC emerged from a timeout with a chance to win in the contest’s final possession. Hanlan tried navigating through a swarm of Blue Devil defenders, waiting for a play to develop. As time dwindled and the openings vanished, Hanlan fired a pull-up jumper that bounced off the back of the rim. Anderson tried to gain control of the rebound, but could neither put the ball back up for a second-chance opportunity nor draw a foul. The final buzzer ended a brief loose-ball struggle, leaving the Eagles to cope with another heartbreaker. 

For Hanlan, last night’s conclusion was all-too similar to his last-second miss at the free-throw line against Miami a few weeks ago and a reminder of how tough it is to adjust to pressures of collegiate basketball.

“It’s hard,” Hanlan said, after posting a game-high 20 points in the losing effort. “I’m still kind of getting used to this environment. I could do a way better job in these types of situations.”

Mindful of the freshman standout’s contributions and will to improve, however, Donahue would not let one missed opportunity blemish a gutsy performance.

“I thought Olivier played terrific,” Donahue said. “The thing about Olivier is just that he does this every day. This isn’t just a game—this is his life. He wants to be great and he takes every advantage to try to do that. Obviously he’s extremely disappointed, but a little hard on himself as well.” 

Though last night’s loss can be ridiculed as a missed chance to translate hardnosed play into a trademark victory, Donahue and his squad will take it in stride—as another milestone in their path toward building a contender.

“You have no idea how this tears you up,” Donahue said. “That’s life. There’s a lot of worse things in life. What I try to focus on is that this group is allowing us to coach them. That sounds miniscule, but if this is going to get done here, this game doesn’t really have anything to do with it. It’s more important that they’re doing the things that we’re asking, that they’re willing to do 24/7 around the clock as a program. That’s what I’m encouraged by.” 

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