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MEN'S BASKETBALL: The Team That Couldn’t Finish Finds A Way At ’Cuse

Assoc. Sports Editor

Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014

Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 05:02

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Kevin Rivoli / AP Photo

They were the team that doesn’t finish. They were the team that came closer and closer: a free throw there, a bad foul there, and they lost it. It didn’t matter who it was—Notre Dame, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Syracuse—all games lost after BC showed signs of an upset, or even just signs of life.

The Eagles just couldn’t close. Didn’t finish. Choked. Whatever you call it, it made for a lot of heartbreaking losses.

Last night was set up for a similar story. BC leapt out to an early lead, but C.J. Fair almost single-handedly pulled the Orange back into contention before it got out of hand, scoring eight of Syracuse’s first 10 points.

Fair slowed down, but by no means relented, leading the Orange in scoring with 20 points in what turned out to be Syracuse’s lowest-scoring two halves of the season. In regulation time, the teams put up 50 points each, tying BC’s season low, and surpassing Syracuse’s by only one.

Syracuse’s 2-3 zone was doing its job, limiting scoring chances so that BC had to rely on 3-point chances.

In the first half, that was enough. Syracuse entered the first break with a relatively comfortable margin of eight points after BC made just four of 12 3- pointers amounting to just 12 points, which made up the majority of the Eagles’ scoring in the half.

In the second half, though—the period in which Syracuse has beaten down and tired out opponents all year—the Eagles pulled through and hit seven of 10 from behind the arc, quickly catch- ing up to the Orange and bringing their total 3-point percentage to 50 percent for the game, while Syracuse hit just 16.7 percent.

They tied the game, just like they have against formidable competitors so many times, but with BC’s track record, even a lead was no guarantee of a win.

This is the team that doesn’t finish. A 24-11 run was exciting, but tying the score up with eight minutes remaining isn’t enough.

There were so many times that the Eagles could have lost it. Moments of brilliance to get ahead were quickly followed by blunders. For instance, with just more than three minutes remaining, Ryan Anderson broke up a pass in the Syracuse offensive end that was intercepted by Patrick Heckmann, who quickly brought it down for two to put the Eagles on top. Over the next few seconds, though, the Orange tied it up once again.

BC was close to letting it all slip away when a controversial call came with just seconds left in overtime. Up by one, Lonnie Jackson got in the way of a pass from Tyler Ennis that flew out of bounds. Upon first look, it appeared that Jackson had failed to make contact with the ball as it went over his fingertips, but it was ruled a Syracuse ball, giving the Orange a chance for the lead.

It was Syracuse, this time, that couldn’t finish. The team that had won its last two ACC matches by just three points, pulling through in the clutch with last minute plays, couldn’t pull it together this time. The Orange faltered, giving up the ball two more times and allowing the Eagles to scrape away with the lead and the win, finally pulling off the upset after coming so close against so many teams.

Through eight lead changes, five ties, and Syracuse’s largest cushion of 13 points, a combination of Olivier Hanlan’s 20 points, Anderson’s game-high 14 rebounds, and calm, smart play down the stretch, the Eagles finally pulled it off.

“We’ve been up eight in a lot of games this year, down the stretch, and we’ve had an emotional season,” head coach Steve Donahue told ESPN. “We lost one of our colleagues in Dick Kelley and just the emotion of this game—I’m speechless. I’m so happy for our guys and all the adversity we’ve faced this year—obviously a huge win for our program.”

It was the first time that BC knocked off a No. 1 team since 2009 when the Eagles upset North Carolina and fin- ished the season with a 22-12 (9-7 ACC) record. This BC season has a different story—the wins aren’t coming easily and they aren’t coming often, but the Eagles return to Boston with the big- gest upset of the college season under their belt.

 

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