Sports, Basketball, Men's Basketball

Tar Heels Out Class Eagles

Boston College men’s basketball had been enjoying the comforts of cozy Conte Forum, but it didn’t take long for the Eagles to realize that the University of North Carolina’s Dean E. Smith Center wouldn’t be quite so welcoming. UNC packed the Dean Dome for the early afternoon contest and brought the intensity from the start, forcing turnovers and converting opportunities off the fast break. With only one of BC’s five wins coming as the away team, Ryan Anderson and company hoped to correct their road woes against a team that has uncharacteristically struggled against inferior opponents this season.

After an 18-point outburst in BC’s most recent game against Syracuse, in which he went six for nine from behind the arc, Lonnie Jackson received another opportunity to start from head coach Steve Donahue, who planned that the junior’s shot would give the Eagles an edge. Despite his 14 points, and despite hanging tough for most of the game, the Eagles couldn’t match the Tar Heels’ runs, losing their fifth ACC matchup 82-71.

The Tar Heels came into the contest as losers of three straight and looked like a defeated team early on, as they allowed the Eagles to take a lead in the first few minutes. After an emphatic breakaway dunk from Brice Johnson off an Olivier Hanlan turnover, North Carolina seized momentum back and refused to give up the lead.

The early story of the game for BC was its inability to rebound, as it continually gave the Tar Heels second and third chances after missed shots. A three by Marcus Paige capped off a 16-2 run for North Carolina, prompting Donahue to take a timeout to settle his team down.

The Eagles responded well out of the timeout and closed the gap behind Eddie Odio’s three point shooting, cutting the lead to as low as two with six minutes remaining in the first half. Each team traded baskets as the clock wound down, and as the buzzer sounded at the end of the first, BC trailed the Heels by a score of 36-32.

After a brief run from North Carolina to open the second half, Anderson made a layup, drew a foul and converted on the and-one to bring the Eagles back within four. BC received a prime opportunity to get back into the game with foul shots, as they were in the bonus with more than 13 minutes remaining in the second half. The Eagles failed to convert on many of their chances, however, and missed eight free throws in total.

The Eagles’ three point shooting kept them close with the Tar Heels, who struggled to find an answer to BC’s shooting prowess. Jackson hit a huge three from deep on the wing to make it a one-point game with 10 minutes remaining, but once again, UNC’s offensive rebounding gave it second opportunities. Another Johnson dunk extended the Tar Heels’ lead to four.

After a BC timeout, miscommunication between Hanlan and Anderson resulted in a turnover, leading to two easy North Carolina points on the other end. This play sparked a UNC run that brought its lead to nine with just over six minutes remaining.

With time expiring, the Tar Heels gradually pulled away due to sloppy play from the Eagles, who struggled to match North Carolina’s big-game experience and finishing ability. Though the final score would indicate otherwise, the game was close until the end when BC had to start fouling. Donahue’s starters, led by Hanlan with 16 points, and Jackson, produced a majority of the Eagles’ points, as each player scored in double figures. The bench failed to contribute, however, as it only added five points combined.

Next week against Georgia Tech, Boston College will get back to the familiarity of home, where it is scoring six more points per game than elsewhere. The Eagles will be looking to snap their two-game skid against the 10-7 Yellow Jackets, who are 1-3 in the ACC.

January 18, 2014