Sports, Men's Basketball, Basketball, Winter, Top Story

North Carolina Throttles Eagles as BC’s ACC Tournament Run Comes to a Close

Greensboro, N.C. — In a season that featured a plethora of injuries and highs as high as defeating then-No. 6 Virginia at home but also lows as low as losing to Maine and New Hampshire, it’s fitting that Boston College men’s basketball’s season ended on one of those two extremes. The Eagles’ season essentially came to a close with a 24-point blowout loss to North Carolina in the second round of the ACC Tournament on Wednesday.

“We saw everything,” BC head coach Earl Grant said. “We saw every setback, every disappointment, every injury, every adversity. The way the players handled it, at the end of the day, says a lot about their character.”

The Eagles always faced a hefty task if they wanted to advance past the No. 7-seed Tar Heels, the 2022 National Championship runner-ups. Doing so without leading scorer Quinten Post would have made things even more challenging.

And while Post did manage to suit up and return from a one-game absence by coming off the bench, his presence did not provide No. 10-seed BC with enough star power to get past the well-rounded, yet explosive, Tar Heels. North Carolina (20–12, 11–9 Atlantic Coast) throttled BC (16–17, 9–11) after an initial close start to defeat the Eagles 85–61 in front of a sea of Carolina blue at Greensboro Coliseum. 

Post, while managing 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, clearly was not fully healthy, as he did not showcase his usual dominant self.

“This morning, I felt a lot better,” Post said. “Still some pain but I felt good enough to play.”

It wasn’t initially a complete mismatch, contrary to the two teams’ last meeting on Jan. 17 that featured the Eagles hitting zero 3-pointers, as BC came out firing and converting from three on Wednesday. Makai Ashton-Langford and Devin McGlockton nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to put BC ahead 6–2, and Ashton-Langford followed with two more pull-up jumpers to tie the game at 10 apiece at the 16:12 mark. 

BC’s offense, however, subsequently went cold, and the Tar Heels’ aggressiveness and ability to shoot from behind the arc allowed them to thrive, as North Carolina converted on 7 of 13 3-pointers in the first half. 

“I think it was a combination,” Grant said regarding the teams’ talent gap and BC’s poor play. “We didn’t play our best game … North Carolina, I think they played one of their better games.”

Five 3-pointers in the middle of the half helped supply a 23–6 Tar Heels run to put them up 33–16 at the 7:45 mark, with the Eagles struggling to defend North Carolina’s sharpshooters RJ Davis and Caleb Love, who combined for five first-half 3-pointers and 40 total points.

“We had a gameplan to lock in on Bacot, double him, and then just contest the shooters and hope they miss a few shots, but they came out and shot the best today,” Jaeden Zackery, who finished with 15 points, said. 

Zackery helped the Eagles push back and gain some momentum that started off with his own 3-pointer to cut North Carolina’s lead to 39–23 at the 4:34 mark. Following Zackery’s three, First Team All-ACC member Armando Bacot limped off the court and had to be helped to the locker room in what appeared to be a non-contact injury. 

Bacot’s departure opened things up for Post, who had been battling with Bacot for the first 15 minutes. The 7-footer immediately nailed a hookshot and finished the half with nine points, looking more settled in than when he first checked in at the 16:27 mark. And while BC managed to cut North Carolina’s lead to 43–29 at the half, it felt as if BC missed multiple opportunities to cut the game to single digits while Bacot was out.

Bacot returned for the start of the second half, and BC’s offense completely froze with Post reverting back to his shaky self. North Carolina opened the final 20 minutes on a 15–2 run with the Eagles attempting three quick, low-quality 3-pointers—all misses. 

BC’s only glimmer of hope occurred with Post, Ashton-Langford, and Zackery—BC’s top three leading scorers—all on the bench, as Mason Madsen and Chas Kelley III thrusted BC to an 11–2 run to cut North Carolina’s lead to 60–42 at the 10:50 mark.

Ashton-Langford, who returned to the game at the 7:55 mark, finished with a team-high 16 points in what is likely his final college game.

“Obviously, the way it ended, I didn’t want it to end like that,” Ashton-Langford said. “I’ve been through a lot with these guys, with the guys in the locker room, so it was obviously an emotional feeling when I noticed that it was about time for me to get up out of here.”

In a program-building season, BC will look for the adversity it faced to pay dividends, regardless of who returns next year. 

“Grateful for the coaching staff and the guys to kind of accept me back into the rotation and have me be a part of honestly an amazing season,” Post said. “I think we are moving the program in the right direction.”

March 8, 2023