Entering Wednesday night’s contest against No. 6 Virginia, Boston College men’s basketball had not won three games against ranked opponents in a season since the 2008–09 season.
Wednesday night—for the first time in 14 years—the Eagles did just that. BC (14–15, 8–10 Atlantic Coast) defeated the Cavaliers (21–5, 13–4) 63–48 behind a defensive masterclass and an all-around gritty performance, sending shockwaves through the college basketball world. Just as the final whistle blew, Eagles fans stormed the hardwood of Conte Forum amid a sold-out crowd.
“Honestly, I thought it was like a dream come true,” Jaeden Zackery said. “Because when you’re a little kid, that’s what you always think about, beating a ranked team, seeing everyone storm the court for you. It’s just a special moment for us and this program.”
The victory also marked the Eagles’ first win over a top-10 opponent since Dec. 9, 2017, when BC took down No. 1 Duke in Conte Forum. BC’s eight conference wins this season are its most since the 2010–11 season.
“We’re in pursuit of being a good program,” BC head coach Earl Grant said. “That takes a lot of belief, blood, sweat, and tears and commitment and time.”
BC held Virginia to just 48 points in the game—marking the second time the Eagles have held opponents to 48 points or less this season. BC also held Virginia to just 32.2 percent shooting from the field—a season low for the Cavaliers—and 19 percent shooting from deep. Jayden Gardner, who tallied 16 points, was the only Cavalier to reach double digits.
The Eagles took a double-digit lead for the first time when Quinten Post hit a jumper in the paint at the 15:05 mark of the second half, and BC never let Virginia get back into the game for the remainder of the night. Just over five minutes later, Gardner hit a jumper to make it 44–37, but BC stayed in command, holding the Cavaliers to their least amount of points all season.
“I think they sensed a ‘boy, I think we’re gonna get these guys,’” Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said about Conte Forum’s crowd. “A lot of excitement there. I think their team is certainly on the rise.”
Virginia’s defense neutralized Post—BC’s leader in points per game with 15.9— all night. The Cavaliers double teamed the 7-footer each time he received the ball in the post, limiting him to just eight points on 4-of-14 shooting.
But BC’s primary big man found success with his back-to-the-basket passing, hitting teammates who were cutting for layups and not forcing his own shots.
“We play a lot through QP in the post,” Makai Ashton-Langford said. “He makes the job a lot easier for us because he scores so well down there and he shoots the ball so good … so we get a lot of free lanes, free drives.”
One game removed from his perfect 5-of-5 shooting performance from behind the arc, Post recorded 0-of-4 3-point shooting against Virginia. But Post used his size to see over Virginia’s defense and find open spots, tallying three assists and helping the Eagles’ 3-point shooters get space.
“His ability to pass out of a double and get other players open shots and his ability to protect the rim, you know, big time game,” Grant said.
With Post not able to provide his usual scoring output, Ashton-Langford and Zackery stepped up. The two guards combined for 28 points, and Zackery’s suffocating defensive presence limited Virginia offensively all game.
Zackery, who did not score in the first half, notched eight straight points for BC in the second half from the 10:40 mark to the 7:56 mark, capping off the spree with an isolation 3-pointer over Gardner to put the Eagles up 49–37, and causing Conte to go berserk.
“I took it upon myself to take shots that are open,” Zackery said. “It’s kind of just having confidence.”
The sophomore finished with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
Ashton-Langford set the tone both offensively and defensively. The graduate student led all BC scorers with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting—his first time reaching double figures and hitting more than three field goals since Feb. 4 against Syracuse.
His first-half fadeaway 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring extended BC’s lead to 24–17 at the 3:16 mark, showcasing what type of night it would be for the Eagles, who shot 52 percent from the floor as a team.
plenty of time for Makai Ashton-Langford ⌚️— BC Men's Basketball (@BCMBB) February 23, 2023
26-17 Eagles with 2:24 to go in the first. pic.twitter.com/l8xUqiQzvp
“Yea, that hurt us,” Bennett said. “Certainly it did.”
But Ashton-Langford dismissed the shot’s importance, and instead doubled down on the Eagles’ defensive prowess.
“The tone was set on defense, for sure,” Ashton-Langford said.
With two more games until the start of the ACC Tournament, Grant said he’s seeing improvement from his now fully healthy team—along with payoff.
“There’s a method to the madness,” Grant said. “You learn how to fly a plane a certain way and you believe you fly it that way. And if you don’t, it’s gonna crash. So, you know, we believe what we believe. We’re a defensive, rebounding team first.”
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