Sports, Winter, Basketball, Men's Basketball

Eagles Defeat No. 21 Virginia Tech for Highest-Ranked Victory of Grant Era

Since Boston College men’s basketball head coach Earl Grant arrived in Chestnut Hill on March 21, 2021, he’s stood by the same motto.

“Gritty, not pretty.”

But BC has pushed the “gritty, not pretty” mentality to its limits in the 2022–23 season. The Eagles (7–6, 1–1 Atlantic Coast) endured a four-game losing streak before defeating Stonehill on Dec. 13, and were 6–6 record heading into their final matchup before Winter Break against No. 21 Virginia Tech (11–2, 1–1). 

But something changed Wednesday night in Conte Forum, and BC executed the “gritty, not pretty” mentality to a tee. BC played physical, aggressive basketball, notching a season-high 17 offensive rebounds and holding Virginia Tech to a season-low 30 first-half points en route to a 70–65 overtime victory over the Hokies. 

“It has to be gritty in order for us to win,” Makai Ashton-Langford said.  

Ashton-Langford registered a season-high 21 points, including 16 in the second half and overtime combined, carrying the Eagles to their highest-ranked victory of the Grant era and BC’s first win against an AP-ranked opponent since 2020. 

“I tell the guys all the time, no one win or loss is going to find us,” Grant said. “We’re trying to be our best in March.”

Mason Madsen tallied the first points of the game with a stepback jumper. Six minutes later, Jaeden Zackery recorded a steal and an assist to CJ Penha Jr. to put the Eagles up 8–6. 

Ashton-Langford’s first points of the night came on a fastbreak and gave BC a 10–8 lead, but Virginia Tech’s Justyn Mutts went on a 6–0 run to put the Hokies in the lead, which they maintained for the remainder of the first half. 

Prince Aligbe—who finished the game with five points and four rebounds—nailed a buzzer beater from behind the arc to put BC within five points heading to halftime and swing the momentum the Eagles’ way. 

Ashton-Langford led the charge out of the break as the Eagles made five of their first seven field goals. Ashton-Langford single handedly went on a 6–0 run to put BC ahead 35–34.

“He’s been in college for a lot of years,” Grant said. “The plan was to get him coming downhill to his right hand, trying to attack the ball screen coverage, and he just did a great job of scoring and making decisions in the ball screen to hit his teammates.”

Devin McGlockton joined the scoring frenzy, combining with Ashton-Langford to score BC’s next nine points. McGlockton—a former football tight end—hung around the basket with ready hands to receive the ball on multiple feeds. 

“Devin’s supposed to be playing Power Five tight end right now,” Grant said. “He can catch around the basket—he might not make it—but it’s going to stick to his hands. He really delivered tonight and had a great performance.”

McGlockton totaled 18 points on the night. 

“Offensively, they were playing up on the screens,” McGlockton said. “That opened up the slit for me to get some shots around the basket, and they started falling, so that was good for us.”

An emphatic Penha dunk and a hanging Zackery jumper launched the Eagles ahead 48–44 with 8:14 left in the half. 

The Hokies failed to compensate for McGlockton, whose hookshot over Sean Pedulla made it 57–48, BC’s largest lead of the night. 

That lead, however, was short lived. Virginia Tech poured in 11 straight points to go up 59–57 with 49 seconds left in regulation, and Grant signaled for a timeout. As play continued, the Eagles immediately put the ball in the hands of Ashton-Langford, who swooped past a Virginia Tech defender for an acrobatic floater, tying the game at 59 apiece with 32 seconds left. 

Virginia Tech missed the go-ahead basket, and the game headed to overtime. 

Neither team scored in the first two minutes of overtime, but McGlockton cleaned up a missed layup from Ashton-Langford to put BC ahead by two. 

With 56 seconds left in overtime, Ashton-Langford missed a 3-pointer, but McGlockton collected his seventh rebound of the night. After resetting its offense, BC was battling the shot clock, so Zackery dumped the ball off to Ashton-Langford well beyond the arc. Ashton-Langford threw up a desperation 3-pointer. 

“I was like, ‘regardless of if you pass it to me, it’s going up,’” Ashton-Langford said of the play. “So I got my elbow ready, and that was that.”

Ashton-Langford nailed the shot to secure BC the win.

“I think the players just really showed their character, they kept showing up, every day, coming to work, never complaining and never looking for excuses,” Grant said. “It just showed that they want to continue to try to build a program.” 

December 21, 2022