Sports, Winter, Basketball, Men's Basketball

Eagles Narrowly Defeat Notre Dame 61–58

Despite maintaining a lead of less than five points for much of the second half, Boston College men’s basketball seemed to inch past Notre Dame for good with 30 seconds left to play in its Saturday afternoon matchup in South Bend, Ind. when a strong Jaeden Zackery layup propelled the Eagles to a four-point lead.

Just as it seemed like BC had sealed the victory, however, Notre Dame had one more shot at sending the game to overtime.

Notre Dame’s Braeden Shrewsberry nailed a 3-pointer with one second left to play in the game, diminishing the Eagles’ lead to only three points. With one second left on the clock following a timeout, a Prince Aligbe turnover gave the Irish one last chance to send the game into overtime. But the Irish’s Kebba Njie could not convert from downtown, solidifying another close win for BC.

“I’d like to be up by 10 or 12, that’d be great,” BC head coach Earl Grant said. “You know, sometimes, you got to play the hand that you have been dealt. For us right now, that’s where we find ourselves. All of the games come down to the last two or three minutes, as we continue to, you know, pursue our best. I imagine that will change hopefully in the next two weeks, but that is where we are at right now.”

The Eagles (12–8, 3–6 Atlantic Coast) defeated Notre Dame (7–13, 2–7) 61–58, marking the first time BC has ever defeated the Fighting Irish for four straight games. Saturday’s Holy War matchup is also the second time that BC has played Notre Dame within the last three weeks, as the Eagles won 63–59 in a comeback win over the Fighting Irish in Conte Forum on Jan. 15.

“It feels good that we get to be a part of a history that’s been a part of something longer than this team, longer than the coaching staff and all that, but all and all, it feels exciting,” Chas Kelley III said about the rivalry between BC and Notre Dame. 

Beginning the game, the Eagles struggled to create and maintain a lead over the Irish, as Notre Dame led for the majority of the first half. BC’s largest lead was only six points with 9:56 left to play in the half. But less than a minute and a half later, the Irish went on a 6–0 scoring run that tied the game at 11. 

The Eagles ended the first half tied to Notre Dame, scoring only 23 points in the first 20 minutes of play. 

“A big part of it was the tempo of the game was slower in the first half,” Grant said. “We probably should have had 32 points. We left two or three baskets out there that we had at the rim that we could finish, and some threes we usually make, but we didn’t make them. I’m glad we made the adjustment in the second half and found a way to execute offensively and get the stops we needed.” 

It wasn’t until the second half when both team’s offenses began to heat up. Coming off the bench, Claudell Harris Jr. proved to be the difference maker for BC’s point production, as he delivered two game-changing plays for the Eagles. 

With 10:13 left to play in the second half, Harris jumped into the air and fired a shot from downtown. After the shot left his finger tips, Harris watched as the ball banked swiftly into the net. 

He was not done just yet, though. Forty-one seconds later, Harris banked in another shot from outside the paint, giving BC a five-point lead over Notre Dame—its largest lead of the second half up to that point. 

“I think some key plays that solidified the win were right in the middle of the second half,” Grant said. “We found something that was bothering their defense, and Claudell Harris made two corner threes in the same play back-to-back. We were able to execute, making the right play, making the right pass, and then Claudell was able to hit those two threes, which I thought was a big separation point in the game.” 

Even without Quinten Post, who fouled out of the game with 4:03 left to play, BC managed to find some offensive rhythm. As the game clock slipped away, the Eagles earned seven points in the last four minutes. 

“Offensively, we need to continue to mature, you know, to attack when we can work for a good shot,” Grant said. “Typically, you want to play your best in March, and I think the last two weeks we’ve gotten better and all of our games have been close to where we have gotten better. I’m glad we were able to get over the hump today.” 

The win marked BC’s fourth road win of the season. 

“I’m just happy for our players,” Grant said. “You know, I’m happy for BC nation. Anytime you can win, it’s great. Anytime you can get a sweep is great, specifically when you can win on the road.”  

January 27, 2024