Two straight games coming down to the wire to kick off the 2022–23 season?
That’s the reality Boston College men’s basketball has faced to start the year.
Freshman Prince Aligbe’s heroics on a go-ahead layup with 0.9 seconds left gave BC its opening-night win on Monday.
Aligbe passed the torch to Masen Madsen in Friday’s matinee against Detroit Mercy (1–1). Madsen hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 14 seconds left off an offensive rebound from Devin McGlockton and a dish from Makai Ashton-Langford to lift BC (2–0) to a 70–66 victory.
“There was no game plan really,” Madsen said of the shot, laughing. “I said to Makai ‘I wouldn’t have hit that without you.’ It was a collective effort.”
The first half featured back-and-forth play. Neither team’s offense was fully clicking, allowing for a defensive-heavy game from both sides.
BC was without Quinten Post and DeMarr Langford Jr. for the second straight game. Aligbe exited the game with a high ankle sprain, and Donald Hand Jr. also left with an injury.
T.J. Bickerstaff stepped up for the Eagles on the glass, cleaning up BC’s misses, as the Eagles shot only 33 percent from the field in the first half.
“He was all over the place,” head coach Earl Grant said of Bickerstaff. “He was thrown right into the fire, has never played center, and done a great job.”
BC took its largest lead of the half off a second-chance putback layup by Bickerstaff to give the Eagles a 21–15 lead with 7:37 left in the first half. Bickerstaff finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds but left the game late in the second half with a leg cramp.
Detroit Mercy stormed back from its 21–15 deficit, starting with a 3-pointer from Antoine Davis, who averaged 25.9 points per game for the Titans last season. Davis finished the game with 15 points on 6-of-19 shooting.
Madsen, the Eagles’ 3-point specialist and an offseason acquisition, finally got going from behind the arc after hitting no 3-pointers on Monday against Cornell. He knocked down three 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting from three.
“I think that, just for my mental sanity and being able to sleep at night, it was important for me [to make those shots],” Madsen said.
Madsen’s third triple of the night gave the Eagles a 33–32 lead with less than a minute left in the half, but Detroit Mercy’s Jayden Stone made a buzzer-beating putback to put the Titans up 34–33 at halftime.
“He’s a shooter,” Grant said of Madsen. “He’s been a shooter for most of his life, so usually when he takes one we think [he’s] got a chance to make it.”
Ashton-Langford—after going scoreless in the first half—scored five straight buckets to open the second half and finished the game with 15 points.
“I think he likes it when things are stacked against him,” Grant said of Ashton-Langford. “He rises to the occasion.”
But Stone torched the Eagles from deep all game. His fourth 3-pointer put Detroit Mercy up 43–40. The Titans scored 17 points in five minutes and 23 points in under nine minutes, and BC trailed 57–50 just past the midway point of the second half.
A Davis fadeaway corner three gave Mercy an eight-point lead, its largest of the night.
In an exclamation point of a dunk, 6-foot-3 Ashton-Langford capped off a 6–0 BC run, causing Conte Forum to erupt.
After picking up his fourth personal foul, however, Ashton-Langford subbed out for Chas Kelley, and BC went six-plus minutes without scoring, displaying a stagnant offense.
Defensively, the Eagles didn’t give in, only allowing two points over the next seven minutes.
“I think the fact that we got stops was the only reason that we were even in that game,” Madsen said.
McGlockton—who logged zero stats as a freshman last season—was an x-factor with a massive offensive rebound over two Detroit Mercy players to set up Madsen’s game winner.
“Devin having that much poise to rebound and pivot out and get to him in a timely manner was pretty impressive,” Grant said.
C.J. Penha Jr. took an on-script charge to give the Eagles the ball back with three seconds left on the clock, and two Ashton-Langford free throws sealed the deal.