Greensboro, N.C. — Boston College men’s basketball was without leading scorer Quinten Post for the 14th time this season, but the No. 10-seed Eagles (16–16, 9–11 Atlantic Coast) managed to defeat No. 15-seed Louisville (4–28, 2–18) 80–62 behind Jaeden Zackery’s and Makai Ashton-Langford’s combined 31 points in the first round of the ACC Tournament on Tuesday.
“I know I had to step up because I’m one of those veteran players on the team,” Zackery said. “So if I kind of fold and sit down and kind of play slower, everybody else is gonna play off of that. So I realized, like, I’m stronger than most of the guards that we’re going to play.”
Zackery’s nine second-half points helped BC recover from a 19–6 Louisville run that closed the first half, as the second-year guard used his physicality to bully the Cardinals down low and find open teammates when Louisville collapsed in the paint. His eight assists are a season high, and he and freshman Prince Aligbe played off one another to help BC outscore Louisville by 21 points in the second half.
“I just told myself, do my job, you know, make the game easy for myself and make sure we secure a win,” Aligbe, who finished with 14 points, said.
T.J. Bickerstaff got the start for Post, who injured his ankle less than three minutes into Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech. He was a game-time decision leading up to Tuesday’s game, but was ultimately not ready to suit up.
“He had a pretty good practice yesterday, but not to the point where we felt like he could move and defend and run the way we need to run to play in these games,” BC head coach Earl Grant said of Post. “We’ll take it day to day and we’ll see how he looks tonight.”
But the Eagles adjusted without their 7-footer and without second-leading scorer Ashton-Langford, who picked up his third foul at the 8:24 mark in the first half and remained on the bench until the start of the second half. Eight different Eagles scored in the win, with Bickerstaff holding his own by notching eight points and playing aggressive defense.
“We just knew everyone was gonna have to step up,” Mason Madsen, who recorded nine points on 4-of-6 shooting, said. “It wasn’t gonna be any one individual guy to fill QP’s shoes.”
Ashton-Langford made his presence known before he was subbed out, nailing back-to-back 3-pointers to put BC ahead 11–9 at the 14:11 mark. But once he was placed on the bench, BC scored only 14 more points in the half, with DeMarr Langford Jr.—who returned from a two-game absence—appearing uncomfortable being the lead point guard.
“Coach told me to just keep my head straight,” Ashton-Langford said about being subbed out. “Because I kind of did get a little frustrated. I was able to get my legs back under me and then we finished out the game strong.”
The Eagles’ offense subsequently went stagnant, reverting to heavy isolation play and little movement. Louisville closed the half on a 19–6 run to put itself ahead 34–31 at the break.
But BC’s defense locked in on El Ellis for much of the first half, limiting the ACC’s second-highest scorer to just five points—and zero points until the 2:34 mark. Ellis totaled 16 points in the game but shot just 5 of 16 from the field.
“We knew starting off he was a threat because we’ve seen him play all season,” Zackery said. “He’s their best player. We knew me and Makai, Prince, every single person on the team had to play collectively and, like, work together to stop him, and we did a pretty good job today.”
BC notched four straight points to open the half, with its offense appearing more settled with Ashton-Langford back on the hardwood. Devin McGlockton also used his elusiveness to roll to the basket effectively, catching tight-knit passes from Ashton-Langford and Zackery. The redshirt freshman finished with 11 points.
Zackery emerged as BC’s offensive catalyst near the halfway mark of the half, helping the Eagles go on two separate 6–0 runs. His physicality down low allowed him to draw fouls and resulted in Louisville getting in the bonus at the 14:10 mark.
“Just told the guys to take a deep breath,” Grant said of the Eagles’ halftime adjustments. “Let’s kind of regroup to be a little bit more organized on offense. Let’s guard them without fouling.”
But Zackery struggled to take full advantage from the charity stripe, finishing 7 of 13 from the line. BC as a whole finished 17 of 24 from the free throw line.
A long BC offensive possession that featured three separate offensive rebounds led to a Madsen 3-pointer, putting BC ahead 61–51 at the 6:40 mark. The Eagles only briefly let up their double-digit lead and eventually pulled away in what was nearly a 20-point victory to advance to the second round of the tournament, where they’ll face North Carolina.
“Believe in each other,” Grant said. “Believe in what we do. We are what we repeatedly do—like we can’t change, okay? It’s March.”