Heading into the postseason, Boston College men’s basketball had just one shot at making the NCAA Tournament: winning the conference championship and earning an automatic bid. But to say that prospect was a long shot would be an understatement. The Eagles earned the last seed in the ACC Tournament, which made the already daunting road even more improbable.
The Eagles (4-16, 2-11 Atlantic Coast) faced 10th seed Duke (9-9, 12-11) in the first round of the ACC Tournament on Tuesday. What resulted was the Eagles’ second-most lopsided performance of the season, topped only by a 38-point blowout at the hands of Syracuse. But in the postseason, the mentality is “win or go home” and the Eagles opted for the latter, falling 86-51 to Duke to end their season.
Tuesday’s blowout was a stark contrast to the Eagles’ last matchup with Duke. The Jan. 6 contest came down to the wire, and the Blue Devils edged out an 83-82 victory after being down by eight points at halftime.
In crunch time on Tuesday, however, BC crumbled against Duke, and the Eagles never once held a lead. From opening tipoff to the final whistle, Duke’s commanding lead was hardly ever in doubt.
“Some of the sloppiness in their individual games, you know, hurts the team, and I think they need to get better in all areas,” BC interim head coach Scott Spinelli said in his postgame press conference. “Today, it was glaring. We didn’t shoot the ball well. Duke played phenomenally, played fantastic.”
Duke shot an impressive 52.5 percent from the field while holding the Eagles to shooting just 39 percent, leading to the Eagles’ second-lowest scoring performance of the season. The Eagles did not have a single player score in double figures. Junior guard Makai Ashton-Langford led the Eagles in scoring with nine points, followed by freshman DeMarr Langford Jr. and senior James Karnik who each finished with eight.
Despite the 2020-21 season coming to an end, BC will return the majority of its roster, including both Ashton-Langford and Langford.
“We’ll be right back ready to go,” Ashton-Langford said. “We’re gonna work very hard over the summer, and whatever happens coach-wise, we’ll be 100 percent committed.”
Karnik, Jay Heath, and CJ Felder will also return, looking to find success under a new coach.
“As far as the individual players, all the younger guys that are in the program that are coming back, they need to commit themselves,” Spinelli said.
The big story in Tuesday’s game from the start was the Eagles’ inability to slow down Duke from beyond the arc. The Blue Devils hit a season-high 15 3-pointers, making six of their first 10, while BC went just 1-of-15 from deep.
Duke guard DJ Steward led his team in scoring with 17 points. The freshman contributed to three of Duke’s eight 3-pointers in the first half, helping to secure a 14-point lead heading into the locker room. Duke center Mark Williams also had a huge game, scoring 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field.
“Give Duke credit, they’re hungry and they stepped up and made a lot of shots,” Spinelli said.
The Eagles couldn’t generate virtually any offense throughout the game. They struggled to move the ball and create open shots in both halves. Another issue for BC was ball security. The Eagles gave up 20 turnovers in the game, leading to nine fast-break points for Duke.
With another losing season in the books—BC’s ninth in the last 10 seasons—there’s really nowhere for the Eagles to go but up.
Featured Image by Gerry Broome / AP Photo