Sports, Basketball, Men's Basketball

Last-Minute Comeback Sinks Eagles’ Hopes Against ND

With three minutes remaining in the second half, Notre Dame had completed its comeback. After being down by seven points at halftime and 10 points for much of the first, Prentiss Hubb made a 3-pointer to put the Irish up by one. From that point on, the game was a toss-up. And yet, even though Boston College men’s basketball had excellent chances, quickly taking back the lead from the Irish, the Eagles were unable to pull through for a crucial win. Jay Heath seemed to secure the win for BC, netting a layup with eight seconds remaining in the game, but Notre Dame’s T.J. Gibbs made a buzzer-beating layup to steal the win from the Eagles with a final score of 62-61.

The Eagles (13-16, 7-11 Atlantic Coast) had just come off a devastating loss to Clemson four days prior and looked to prove that their win over the Irish (18-10, 9-8) earlier this season was not a fluke. And for the first half, it looked as though they would succeed in that goal.

From tip-off to the closing minutes of the game, BC dominated the Irish from all sides. The Eagles quickly gained the lead over Notre Dame, going up 9-12 after five minutes of play before the Irish fought back to tie the game at 18 points apiece midway through the half. After a brief period of back-and-forth play, the Eagles took a definitive lead off a layup from Steffon Mitchell.

Mitchell and Derryck Thornton led the Eagles throughout the first half, tallying eight and 10 points respectively with BC as a whole shooting 53 percent. The Irish, on the other hand, were predominantly led by forward John Mooney, who led Notre Dame with 17 points, shooting 8-for-9 from the field. 

“We were hanging on for dear life,” said Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey on battling with the Eagles in the first. “We could not guard them man-to-man. …  It’s exhausting, it hurts you on the offensive end because you don’t have any energy chasing them.”

With five minutes remaining in the first half, Julian Rishwain came off the bench to hit a pair of 3-pointers, putting the Eagles up 30-27. Thornton secured two layups and a good free throw attempt and Jared Hamilton made two good free throws of his own to extend BC’s lead to 10 points over the Irish. 

As the clock wound down on the first half, Jay Heath made a layup in the paint to maintain the Eagles’10-point lead. But with one second left in the first half, a personal foul was called against Rex Pflueger, giving the Eagles a timeout opportunity. As the game returned to play for the remaining second, Hamilton made a bad pass, turning over the ball to Pflueger, who shot a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from half court.

But for all of their success in the first half, the Eagles could not catch a break in the second. The last-minute 3-pointer from Pflueger drastically changed the momentum for the Fighting Irish, allowing them to cut the Eagles’ lead as the half progressed. And for all of their chances and opportunities, BC was unable to convert and unable to maintain its lead over Notre Dame. 

“We missed shots,” said head coach Jim Christian following the loss. “That happens, [and] I’m okay with that, shots aren’t going to go in every night. … We shot the ball really well in the first half, [but in the] second half I thought we got better shots.”

While the Eagles had scored 41 points in the first half, by the time half the clock had run out on the second, the Eagles had only managed to secure nine points against the Irish in that period. Notre Dame, on the other hand, had scored 13 points to cut BC’s lead to three. 

The Eagles managed to hold onto their lead for seven more minutes before Notre Dame finally took over. Hubb’s 3-pointer secured the Irish its first lead since early on in the first half, but BC was not so quick to give up. Thornton made a jumper 20 seconds after Hubb’s tally to regain the lead for the Eagles, and when Notre Dame wasn’t able to immediately respond, it looked as though BC was in the clear.

But as the time ran out in the second half, it was the Fighting Irish that came out on top. A last-ditch effort by Gibbs secured the win for Notre Dame, stealing the win right out from under BC and preventing a series sweep by the Eagles.

BC will have the chance to boost its ACC placement with its final games of the season against Syracuse and No. 6 Florida State next week. But with the night’s loss to Notre Dame added to their season record, the Eagles are guaranteed a losing record for their 2019-2020 campaign. 

Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor

February 27, 2020