One of Boston College men’s basketball’s Achilles’ heels in recent years has been falling flat in non-conference games at Conte Forum, which has put the Eagles behind the eight ball each year.
In the past three years, bad early-season home losses have come at the hands of Albany, Maine, and New Hampshire. On Wednesday night, the sparse crowd inside Conte Forum probably had feelings of deja vú.
“I mean, you know, hey, it wasn’t looking good,” BC head coach Earl Grant said of the early stages of the Eagles’ matchup with Richmond. “It wasn’t going good.”
BC trailed 28–14 with 7:11 left in the first half.
The Eagles provided the first indication, however, that this year’s edition of BC is different from past years. BC (3–0) tightened up on defense and executed on offense to come back against the Spiders (2–1) and eventually upended them 68–61.
“Basically, I just told them, ‘Hey, guys, if they’re gonna beat us, let them beat us,’” Grant said. “But we can’t beat ourselves.”
With double-double performances from Quinten Post and Prince Aligbe, BC stormed back from a double-digit deficit to down Richmond. The Eagles held the Spiders to 27 points after halftime and escaped what could have become another non-conference disaster.
“Last year, we had a lot of first-year guys,” Grant said. “This year, we got a lot of second- and third-year guys. So I think just being in those situations, they remember last year, too. I guess they’ve learned how to dig their way out of it. You know, that’s new. That’s new for us.”
The Eagles struggled on the offensive end early in the game. Richmond clogged the paint and prevented Post from getting deep touches. BC opened the game shooting 4 for 14.
Fifth-year center Neal Quinn was a force for the Spiders. He got the better of Post at times, pouring in eight points within the game’s first six minutes to give Richmond a 12–7 lead before the first media timeout. Quinn led the Spiders with a game-high 21 points.
Richmond extended its lead to 11 at 21–10 after a sloppy inbound pass led to an easy layup for DeLonnie Hunt. The Spiders continued to exploit the Eagles with great movement off the ball, catching BC defenders sleeping.
“I thought we broke down, you know, offensively a few times, made some uncharacteristic mistakes,” Grant said. “Defensively, we weren’t necessarily executing the game plan.”
The Eagles’ shooting woes continued, and two Jordan King free throws gave Richmond its 28–14 cushion.
“We weren’t doing what we said we needed to do to be successful,” Grant said. “So it took ’til the middle of the first half before we finally decided we’re gonna do what we said we need to do to be successful.”
But BC woke up. An 11–0 run for the Eagles ensued, capped off by a straightaway 3-pointer from Post, who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. The Spiders went over five minutes without a field goal and into another media timeout with just a three-point advantage, 28–25.
Quinn put an end to the Spiders’ field goal drought with a hook shot under the two-minute mark of the first half, and two buckets from Aidan Noyes extended Richmond’s cushion to seven at 34–27. BC responded in the final seconds with a Donald Hand Jr. buzzer-beating 3-pointer to enter the locker room down 34–30.
“I thought that was huge momentum going into the locker room, cutting it to four,” Grant said. “And then the second half we kind of just built on that last four minutes of the first half.”
The Eagles shot just 33 percent from the field in the first half and turned the ball over seven times.
BC began the second half on fire, bursting out on an 11–4 surge to take a three-point advantage. Aligbe erupted for seven points in that span.
“I have things that I’m blessed with and that’s athleticism, so I just try to use it to my full advantage,” Aligbe said of his 15-point, 10-rebound performance. “I was also knocking down shots, so it was a recipe for success tonight.”
The Eagles continued to execute offensively, and shooting guard Mason Madsen came to life, scoring five points and providing energy on defense. Madsen finished with nine points and four boards off the bench.
Richmond hung around, however, thanks to the duo of Quinn and Hunt. Hunt buried a triple to draw within a two-point deficit at 50–48 with 9:46 remaining in the second half.
But a Claudell Harris Jr. corner 3-pointer extended BC’s lead to seven four minutes later. Harris stole an inbounds pass and converted on a finger-roll layup a few possessions after that to further widen the Eagles’ advantage to 10 with 3:56 remaining 62–52. The junior finished the game with 10 points and four rebounds.
“I feel like I’m getting better, more comfortable as the games go on,” Harris said. “More comfortable in the system, playing around a talented group of guys.”
In the final minute, guard Jaeden Zackery drained a fadeaway baseline jumper to put the Eagles up seven with 24 seconds left. Zackery iced the game, which ended in a 68–61 victory for BC.
“At home, being in that situation down 12 or 14, we had to learn how to dig our way out of that situation, and we did,” Grant said.