Fifteen minutes into Boston College men’s basketball’s game against Pittsburgh, forward Mouhamadou Gueye drilled a 3-pointer to give the Panthers a one-point lead. With just under 25 minutes left to play, the ACC Tournament’s opening contest promised to be a thrilling matchup.
But only a few possessions later, Pitt’s leading scorer John Hugley was relegated to the bench, having picked up his second foul of the game. With the Panthers’ star sidelined for the final four minutes of the first half, the Eagles (12–19, 6–14 Atlantic Coast) seized control of the game, going on a 12–0 run to end the half en route to a decisive 66–46 victory for BC.
BC’s win over the Panthers (11–21, 6–14) marked its first postseason victory in four years. The Eagles will now face Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament’s second round.
“We want to be playing our best basketball in March,” BC head coach Earl Grant said after the game. “We want to take good shots, and we want to take care of the ball. So, [the win] really was an accumulation of what we worked on all year. It just showed up today.”
Though the Eagles came out running offensively, Hugley kept Pitt competitive through much of the first half, scoring his squad’s first six points. Hugley picked apart the Eagles’ double-teams by consistently finding open teammates. BC’s defense, however, remained committed to its gameplan.
“We knew he was the motor to their team,” DeMarr Langford Jr. said. “And we knew that the bigs were going to need help with him from the first game. Our game plan was to just to double him in the post and make somebody else make a play.”
Due to Hugley’s presence in the post, Grant started 6-foot-9 James Karnik and seven-footer Quinten Post to contain him. And while Hugley came out swinging in the game’s first few minutes, BC kept him in check the rest of the way.
Instead of allowing Hugley to bait BC’s forwards into fouls—as he did in the teams’ matchup on Jan. 8—Makai Ashton-Langford drew a key offensive foul on Hugley, igniting BC’s momentum-shifting run.
The Eagles entered the locker room at the half with an 11-point cushion, having held the Panthers without a field goal for the last 4:52.
The second half, however, started out ugly as officials called both a flagrant and a technical foul on Pitt’s Femi Odukale. BC was awarded four free throws, along with possession of the ball—a pivotal blow to Pitt’s hopes of mounting a comeback.
While BC continued to pour it on, Pitt’s offensive struggles continued. The Panthers’ field goal drought from the first half extended into the second half’s 13:48 mark. Even when Hugley snapped the streak with a two-point jumper, a 9–0 run by Post himself had stretched the BC lead to 20, putting the game out of reach for Pitt.
“We made the adjustments [and] did what we needed to do,” Grant said. “[We] played really physical after the first 10 minutes. I think our guys did a great job.”
While BC’s 53.5 percent shooting stands out on the stat sheet, its defense was critical in clinching the victory.
Besides limiting Hugley, BC held Pitt to only 27.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc and left three of the Panthers’ starting five a foul call away from ejection.
And though a clash against Wake Forest looms, according to Langford Jr., the Eagles are relishing the victory, especially for what it means to their seniors.
“To come out here in Brooklyn and play in the Barclays Center for the ACC Tournament—it’s a great feeling for [the seniors] to end their college career and send them off,” Langford Jr. said. “Hopefully, we can just keep advancing, keep playing, [and] keep winning.”
Featured Image by Nicole Wei / Heights Staff