Heartbreak In South Bend

With less than 30 seconds left in overtime and the game knotted up at 73 in South Bend, there was little doubt who would be receiving the final shot for the Irish. Eric Atkins, the 6-foot-2 senior from Maryland, dribbled the ball at the top of the 3-point line while staring down his defender, Olivier Hanlan, and let the clock run. Putting his head down, Atkins drove to his left for a few dribbles and pulled back quickly, giving himself space by forcing Hanlan off balance.  Atkins pulled up for a contested and high-arcing 3-pointer with only a few ticks left on the clock. Splash. Game over: Notre Dame 76, BC 73.

Joe Rahon accepted an inbound pass with .8 seconds remaining following Atkins’s clutch shot and heaved a desperate 80-footer to no avail.

Atkins carried the Irish down the stretch scoring 24 points, 12 of which came in the last 10 minutes of play. He provided the offensive spark that the Irish needed after only tallying 26 points in the first half and trailing 35-26 with 18 minutes left in the second. Freshman V.J Beachem was also an important contributor for Notre Dame in the game’s closing minutes, scoring 10 points despite averaging only about one point and seven minutes per game going into today’s contest.

The game consisted of many small runs and quick changes in momentum. It had the makeup of a classic rivalry game with neither team letting the other take complete control. The Eagles led for much of the second half and had a four-point lead going into the final minute of play. Having less than 10 seconds to tie the game and down three points, Notre Dame knocked down a mid-range jumper to cut the lead to one and then fouled reigning ACC Rookie of the Year Olivier Hanlan to send him to the free throw stripe for a one-and-one.

Hanlan front ended the first shot and Notre Dame retrieved the rebound. In the final possession with five seconds on the clock, Atkins sprinted down the floor and picked up his dribble just inside the 3-point line and tried to throw up a decent shot. Boston College’s aggressive defense smothered Atkins’ weak attempt, but the referee’s whistle blew just before time expired with less than one second left on the clock. Hanlan had slapped Atkins while reaching for the ball. Atkins converted on the first of the one-and-one but misfired on the second, sending the game into overtime.

In overtime, the Irish grabbed a four-point lead but BC stormed back and tied the game before Atkins delivered the dagger in the waning moments of overtime.

For Notre Dame, 12-10,3-6, this was a much-needed win after dropping three straight and going 3-7 in its last 10 games. Due to academic issues, Jerian Grant, Notre Dame’s star guard who averaged 19 points and six assists this season, has been dismissed from the team until next season. Notre Dame also has been without 6-foot-9 forward Austin Burgette.

On the other hand, the Eagles, 6-15,2-6 ,have now lost nine games by a differential of  ten points or fewer and continue to struggle executing down the stretch. Ryan Anderson, Joe Rahon, and Lonnie Jackson led the Eagles with 49 combined points including a stellar 15-16 from the charity stripe. In his first return to South Bend since leaving Notre Dame after his sophomore campaign, Alex Dragicevich had a solid performance, contributing seven points while also picking up a steal and two blocks.

Boston College improved greatly on its defensive play and built off its solid performance against Virginia Tech. The Eagles totaled five steals and six blocks.  Head coach Steve Donahue instituted many effective low post traps in order to prevent the Irish from taking advantage of BC’s small lineup. There was also a noticeable increase in physical play for the Eagles, who pressured Notre Dame on the perimeter and forced difficult shots when the Notre Dame guards drove to the paint.

Despite the many positives from this game for BC, rebounding lingers as the team’s primary problem.  Notre Dame outrebounded Boston College 36-27 and obtained 15 boards on the offensive glass, giving it many second-chance opportunities to convert.

Although the Eagles have dealt with many crushing losses this season, today’s may sting the most since BC held the lead for much of the game and controlled the tempo. They show the ability and talent of a solid ACC team, but their window is closing to prove their many doubters wrong. Having only a month left in the regular season, the Eagles must turn the corner quickly and hope to rack up a couple of wins going into the ACC tournament.

February 1, 2014

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