Sports, Winter, Basketball, Men's Basketball

Claudell Harris Jr. Propels Eagles to 85–69 Win Over Lehigh

With 16:23 left in the first half of Boston College men’s basketball’s holiday showdown against Lehigh, Claudell Harris Jr. jumped into the air and fired a shot from downtown. After the shot left his fingertips, Harris Jr. watched as the ball banked swiftly into the net—just as his scoring began to heat up. 

The score extended BC’s lead over the Mountain Hawks to 6–2, which only increased as BC rattled off nine consecutive points. Harris Jr. scored 14 points just over five minutes into the game, draining three 3-pointers from downtown. 

“I’m glad [Claudell Harris Jr.] was confident,” BC head coach Earl Grant said. “I’m glad he was aggressive. That gave our team a big lift within the first six minutes of the game.” 

The Eagles (9–3, 0–1 Atlantic Coast) held the lead throughout the rest of the game and dominated Lehigh (2–8) 85–69 in Conte Forum on Thursday night. The holiday showdown could also be referred to as the Harris Jr. Game. Harris Jr. scored 29 points in BC’s win over the Mountain Hawks. 

Harris Jr. also surpassed 1,000 career points—completing seven 3-pointers and leading the Eagles’ offense in points on the night. 

Harris Jr. described what reaching 1,000 career points meant to him. 

“It’s a representation of the hard work I put in through my college years and going forward,” Harris Jr. said. “Hopefully, I can keep adding on to that number and keep helping us stack on land.” 

Harris Jr. delivered 18 points within the first half, nearly outdoing his previous BC career-high of 22 points which he tallied on Nov. 29 against Vanderbilt

Alongside Harris Jr., Quinten Post propelled the Eagles’ lead with a dominant first half defensive showing. While the 7-footer remained quiet offensively within the first half, Post delivered two crucial blocks that turned into two 3-pointers by Harris Jr. 

But Lehigh did not go down without a fight. With 7:57 left within the first half, the Eagles only led 24–16, as the Mountain Hawks cut down a 13-point deficit to just six. 

But that would not be enough to stop the Eagles. In the first half, the Eagles delivered 16 defensive rebounds and converted on 50 percent of their 3-pointers, going 6-for-12 from downtown. With 2:30 remaining in the first half, the Eagles went on a 7–0 scoring run against the Mountain Hawks, giving BC a 15-point lead. 

“I think one of the biggest things we did successfully was responding to their runs,” Grant said. “You know teams can break away at the end. So I thought we responded to runs well, as we went up to 17, and they cut it to 11, nobody panicked, and we pushed it back to 15. We did that two or three times, so I thought the poise and the ability to respond to a run and not panic was a good sign for us.”

By halftime, the Eagles led 44–29—with 18 of the 44 points coming from Harris Jr. 

The Mountain Hawks notched a quick 7–0 scoring run against the Eagles in the first two minutes of the second half, bringing the Eagles’ lead to just 11 points. 

But BC responded by extending the lead as the second half continued. Two consecutive BC 3-pointers by Donald Hand Jr. and Mason Madsen extended BC’s  lead 16 points to ice the game with just 51 seconds remaining. 

The Eagles had a 75 percent free throw percentage in the second half, going 9-for-12 and improving upon their 50 percent free throw shooting in the first. 

With the win, the Eagles complete the non-conference part of their season with a record of 9–3. This marks BC’s best non-conference win percentage since the 2005–2006 season. 

But that did not distract Grant from the focus on the game against Lehigh. 

“I hadn’t thought about it much,” Grant said. “We had been so focused on trying to prepare for this game. We knew this was an interesting game for us because of how they had played other opponents. [Lehigh’s] record didn’t indicate that they were good, but if you watch the film and see how they played teams, they were very capable, so that’s all that we were focused on.”

Coming out of non-conference play, Grant reflected on the Eagles’ performance throughout the 2023-2024 season. 

“The losses we had really helped us,” Grant said. “Everything helps you whether you win or you fail, you can win something from it.”

December 21, 2023