Sports, Basketball, Winter

Eagles Open Conference Play With Loss to No. 17 Duke

Last season, it appeared as though Boston College men’s basketball had a chance to pull off an upset win against then-No. 7 Duke. The Eagles were down just two points with three minutes left in the first half before the Blue Devils pulled away in the second half for an 11-point win.

On Saturday, BC (5–4, 0–1 Atlantic Coast) was down one point 11 minutes into its game against 

No. 17 Duke with a fighting chance. But shooting struggles and multiple Blue Devil scoring runs put the game out of reach for the Eagles, who fell to Duke (8–2, 0–1) 75–59.

“I thought the effort was there,” BC head coach Earl Grant said. “We played really hard. I thought early in the game—the first 11 minutes—we did a good job of executing the game plan and controlling the tempo, keeping the crowd out of the game.” 

The Eagles played aggressively early, and a Chas Kelley III 3-pointer put BC up 7–4 five minutes into the game. But Makai Ashton-Langford suffered a right hamstring strain early, forcing him to leave the game after playing just four minutes. 

“Not having [Ashton-Langford] is a huge deal because of his experience and his ability to stay poised and calm down his teammates anytime it gets a little bit hectic,” Grant said. “We used what we had and tried to compete at the highest level we could.” 

Ashton-Langford’s absence left Kelley and Jaeden Zackery as BC’s only true ball handlers available, and Duke’s zone press put full-court pressure on BC.

“We didn’t turn it over against the press,” Grant said. “But some of the shots [BC took] kind of were like turnovers. [Duke] sped us up.” 

BC recorded nine turnovers on the night. 

Checking in off the bench, DeMarr Langford Jr. converted a difficult finish through contact with 10:55 left in the half. Langford Jr. added another point from the free-throw line and cut Duke’s lead to one. 

Mason Madsen, who has started seven games for Langford Jr. amid his early-season ankle sprain, shot 0-of-6 from behind the arc. 

“Take it one day at a time,” Grant said. “[Langford Jr.] has been out of the lineup for a while with injuries, so he’s returning back, just trying [to help him] find his rhythm, but we’ll go day-to-day and make that decision.”

Langford. Jr. finished the game with five points in 35 minutes. 

Duke took advantage of Ashton-Langford’s absence. A Dereck Lively II jump shot capped off a 12–5 Duke run, as the Blue Devils took a 22–16 lead with seven minutes left in the half. Duke never relinquished its lead again. 

The Blue Devils continued their scoring streak with an 8–2 run to take a 30–18 lead. Duke’s Kyle Filipowski and Lively played hard in the paint, working BC’s defenders down low. 

BC struggled to find any quality looks late in the first half and didn’t make a field goal for the last 2:41 of the half. Devin McGlockton, however, scored BC’s last five points of the half, sending the Eagles into the break down 35–23. 

The Eagles shot 27.3 percent from the field in the half and 1-of-10 from behind the arc. 

CJ Penha Jr. scored BC’s first five points in the second half with a hook shot from the paint and a deep 3-pointer. Penha led the Eagles in scoring with 16 points. 

Lively and Jeremy Roach executed the pick and roll all game, and BC failed to find a way to answer, as Lively made three dunks off rolls.

Freshman Prince Aligbe checked in for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain against Detroit Mercy on Nov. 11 about five minutes into the second half. Aligbe played for four minutes. 

“I had a feeling that it was important for him to get five to six minutes, you know, so he can maybe get 10 to 12 in the next game,” Grant said. “It was nice to get him out on the floor for a few minutes.”

Zackery’s seven straight points cut the Blue Devils’ lead to 10 with 12:44 left in the game, giving the Eagles some life. Duke, however, regained its momentum, going on a 14–7 run. Roach hit a 3-pointer to put Duke up by 21, sending Cameron Indoor Stadium into ecstatic cheers. 

Penha made a layup to bring BC within 15 points, but Duke’s Mark Mitchell iced the game with eight straight points—two from the corner 3-pointer spot—and BC walked away from Cameron Indoor Stadium with its first conference loss. 

“Just make daily improvements.” Grant said of BC’s adjustments heading into the bulk of ACC play. “It’s a 20 game season. We got three non-conference games and Christmas break, and like any other season, just keep developing and trying to grow. It’s a journey, and it doesn’t end until March.” 

December 4, 2022