Category Archives: NCAA Hoops

Competitive College Basketball Season Hits Halfway Mark in Massachusetts

After starting the season just 6-6, Cady Lalanne and UMass have some work to do in order to earn a second straight NCAA Tournament berth (Photo via NBCSports.com).

by MATT HOSMAN

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, six Division 1 basketball teams are vying for berths in the postseason. Generally, teams from Massachusetts are competitive nationally, and this season is no different. The teams span a wide range of leagues, giving fans the chance to see them compete against schools from all over the country. Regularly, these teams compete for their respective league championships and berths in the NIT and NCAA tournaments. A seventh team, UMass Lowell, is not eligible for postseason contention due to its NCAA reclassification last season but has improved steadily over its first year-plus as a Division 1 program.

Boston College (ACC)
Record: 6-4
Key Wins: Providence, New Mexico
Key Losses: Massachusetts, Dayton, USC
Remaining Non-Conference games: UMass Lowell, Harvard
Key home ACC games: UNC, Notre Dame, Louisville, Virginia
ACC Tournament: March 10-14 in Greensboro, N.C.

With two key players from last year’s 8-22 team transferring out (Ryan Anderson to Arizona and Joe Rahon to St. Mary’s), the Eagles look will look to younger players and their veteran captain Dennis Clifford to provide leadership. So far, BC has been paced by returner Oliver Hanlan (16.0 ppg) and Southern Miss transfer Aaron Brown (15.5 ppg). First-year coach Jim Christian has seen BC be competitive in every game, with their biggest loss only being 12 points. The Eagles have one more important non-conference game coming up as they host UMass Lowell on Dec. 29 before opening their ACC schedule at Duke on Jan. 3.

Massachusetts (Atlantic 10)
Record: 6-6
Key Wins: Boston College, Florida State, Northeastern
Key Losses: Harvard, Providence, LSU
Non-Conference games remaining: Iona
Key Home A-10 matchups: Davidson, Rhode Island, Dayton
A-10 Tournament: March 11-15 at Barclays Center, Brooklyn

The Minutemen have had one of the better offenses in the country this season averaging 73.7 points per game, but they have struggled on the defensive end, as they are 308th in points allowed per game (73.5). Veteran forwards Maxie Esho (14.2 ppg) and Cady Lalanne (13.3 ppg) lead the scoring for UMass, but they have not found their guard play. In the absence of starter Seth Berger, Jabarie Hinds, a transfer from West Virgina, has stepped in and filled his role. The Minutemen host Iona on Dec. 30 before beginning Atlantic 10 play on Jan. 3 against St. Bonaventure. They look to make it back to the NCAA tournament for the second straight season.

Boston University (Patriot)
Record: 3-7
Key Wins: Norfolk State, Quinnipiac
Key Losses: Northeastern, UNH, Harvard, UMass-Lowell
Non-Conference games remaining: Wentworth
Key home Patriot League games: Holy Cross, American, Bucknell, Army
Patriot League Tournament: March 3-11; games played at the home of the higher seed

3-7 Boston University has taken their lumps a little bit this season, taking some teams deep into games, but struggling to get over the top and finish games. Cedric Hankerson has been the high scorer for the Terriers thus far, averaging a solid 19.0 points per game. He also averages 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, showing his versatility on the court. John Papale is another key name for Terrier fans, contributing 9.5 ppg and 4.0 assists. BU took a tough road trip to #1 Kentucky in November and trailed only 40-35 at the half before ultimately falling 89-65 in Lexington. The Terriers have a busy week this week, hosting Division 3 Wentworth on Dec. 29 and traveling to Holy Cross on Dec. 31 before opening Patriot League play the next week. Former BC assistant Joe Jones looks to take the Terriers back to the NCAA tournament, where they were ousted last year by Illinois.

Northeastern (CAA)
Record: 7-4
Key Wins: Boston University, Florida State, Santa Clara
Key Losses: Harvard, Massachusetts, St. Mary’s, Cal Poly
Remaining Non-Conference games: Richmond, Detroit
Key Home CAA Games: UNCW, College of Charleston, Towson, Drexel
CAA Tournament: March 6-9 in Baltimore, Md.

The Huskies of Northeastern started their off strong, winning each of their first four games before a loss to UMass took them off their path. The Huskies play very unselfish basketball, averaging 14.9 assists per game. Senior Scott Eatherton leads NU in scoring at 16.4 ppg. Junior guard David Walker, who dropped 23 points in an opening night victory over BU, shoots 89.3 percent from the free throw line. Northeastern travels to Richmond for a New Year’s Eve matchup with the Spiders before tipping off CAA play on Jan. 3 at Delaware.

Harvard (Ivy)
Record: 7-2
Key Wins: Houston, Massachusetts, Northeastern, Boston University
Key Losses: Holy Cross, Virginia
Remaining Non-Conference games: Arizona State, Grand Canyon, St. Rose, Boston College, Bryant
Key Home Ivy games: Columbia, Princeton, Yale, Brown
Ivy League Tournament: None; regular season winner becomes league champion

The 7-2 Crimson are 33rd in the country in points allowed per game at only 58.3. They are led by their senior forwards Wesley Saunders (18.3 ppg) and Steve Moundou-Missi (8.9 ppg) on both the offensive and defensive ends. Along with their scoring, the Crimson rank 20th in the country in blocks per game at 5.8. Harvard was ranked 25th in the preseason AP poll, but fell out of the rankings after an early-season loss to Holy Cross at the TD Garden. The Crimson play at Arizona State on Dec. 28 and continue their West Coast trip at Grand Canyon on Dec. 30 before returning home for the New Year. Harvard looks to take another trip back to the NCAA tournament this season.

Holy Cross (Patriot)
Record: 5-5
Key Wins: Harvard, NJIT, Albany, Brown
Key Losses: Sacred Heart, Canisius, Hartford
Remaining Non-Conference games: None
Key Home Patriot League games: BU, Bucknell, American
Patriot League Tournament: March 3-11; games played at the home of the higher seed

Holy Cross has a very balanced offensive game, with no standout scorers. However, seniors Malcolm Miller (11.9 ppg) and Justin Burrell (11.4 ppg) lead the team in that category. The Crusaders tough inside play is indicative of their 5.4 blocks per game, which is good enough to be in the Top 30 in the nation. Holy Cross is on a two-game skid, but look to break that against a struggling BU team on Dec. 31 before opening up Patriot League play.

UMass Lowell (America East)
Record: 6-5
Key Wins: Sacred Heart, NJIT, Fordham, Boston University
Key Losses: Ohio State, URI, Cornell, Dartmouth
Remaining Non-Conference games: Boston College, Brown
Key Home America East games: New Hampshire, Vermont (at Tsongas Center), Stony Brook (at Costello Athletic Center)

The River Hawks look to build on a 10-18 season last year in their first season at the Division 1 level. Coach Pat Duquette looks to build his team by recruiting nationally as UMass Lowell only carries two players from Massachusetts on their roster. Sophomore Jahad Thomas is the leading scorer, averaging 14.6 ppg and 5.5 rebounds. The River Hawks went on a six-game winning streak at the end of November, but have since lost their last three games. They have one remaining non-conference game (at Boston College on Dec. 29) before America East play starts. They won six conference games last year and aspire for more.

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“Sleeping Beauties” Could Turn into “Cinderella Teams” Come Tourney Time

Freshman Marcus Smart could lead the Cyclones deep into the tournament (Photo/KT King).

by T.J. HORGAN

The most erratic aspect of sports is the underestimated, “Sleeper Team.” A sleeper (team, players, etc.) is one that is undervalued, but performs at an unexpected level. As the plethora of bracket advice is released, there are so many predictions surrounding which team(s) could be a sleeper, it seems as though only a team with a 16-seed winning would be a surprise.

When reading this list of potential sleepers, remember that I am not projecting these teams to make a final four run, but merely to perform better than their seed level.

Belmont

Moving up a division this year, the Bruins fared very well in the Ohio Valley Conference, where Murray State was expected to grab the attention. Belmont certainly does not possess tournament experience and I do not see them beating Ohio State (if they make it that far), but the Bruins will put up a fight against Arizona in the first round.

Belmont can knock down their shots, as they were fourth in the nation in field goal percentage. Also, Arizona’s sub-par defense will allow the Bruins to control the pace of the game. If Belmont gets out to early leads, watch out for this team moving forward.

Oklahoma State

The Cowboys were phenomenal this year in the Big 12. Three of their five Big 12 losses coming from teams seeded lower in them this tournament. Oklahoma State could surprise many people (including Joe Lunardi) who have them losing their second game to St. Louis. Many people could argue that due to the Cowboys’ fifth seed, they don’t qualify as sleepers. However, if they beat St. Louis, they will face Louisville (most likely). Any team above a three seed that beats Louisville qualifies as a sleeper.

During the regular season, Oklahoma State had a 1-1 record against Kansas, a one seed in the South bracket. However, their only loss to the Jayhawks was in double overtime, proving that the Cowboys can endure elite teams. In addition to this, the Cowboys lost to Gonzaga by only one point. A team that was five points away from going 3-0 against one seeds could be a serious contender to excel in this tournament.

Iowa State

This team is certainly one of the most speculative when looking at the bracket match-ups. Being a ten seed, and facing a seven seed in Notre Dame, picking Cyclones would not be unprecedented. This matchup will be my most anticipated first-round game.

Iowa St. relies on the deep shots, some of them being questionable. However, more often than not, they make the shots that I call “questionable.” The Cyclones rank fourth in all of college basketball in points per game (79.6). In addition to their scoring efficiency, they averaged 38.7 rebounds per game.

Iowa State knows how to do everything right, just not consistently. Their unpredictability reflects in their ten seed. However, putting their somewhat extemporaneous offense aside, the Cyclones will cause havoc in this tournament if they get hot. Look for this ball-hawking, deep-shooting team to make a sweet sixteen run if they hit a hot streak.

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Bracketology: Three Ways to Pick ‘Em

The 2013 Final Four takes place in Atlanta (Photo/Gadome)

by PATRICK CARROLL

This is the time that college basketball fans crave. It is a time when fans get to witness March Madness and wait in anticipation for the insanity of the NCAA Tournament. With the Division I championship on the line comes the fun and uncertainty of bracketology. According to statisticians, more people fill out brackets, than eligible voters headed to the polls in last year’s election. Each year, people of all ages try to accurately pick the winners of each game in the tournament, trying to understand the madness and pick, not only the supposedly easy game, but also the eventual upsets.

Most people filling out their brackets for either a competitive office pool or friendly contest between friends analyze the statistics of each team. People attempt to look at the records, points/game, and all sorts of various stats to predict each game’s winner. Of course, all this is a sure route to failure, as it leads to one taking the chalk. It is very rare in college basketball today that all four number one seeds would ever make the Final Four, in fact, it has only happened once (2008). This year the AP No. 1 team has changed constantly as teams continue to get upset every week and the same will be true in the NCAA Tournament. By using stats to pick the winners, one then ignores the possibility of the upset, which can dramatically alter one’s bracket. One upset to a bracket can quickly unravel all your theories on bracketology and bring your chances of winning your bracket contest to a screeching halt.

The next method to the mystery of bracketology is to pick the occasional upset, with the challenge being to balance a few favorites in the tournament that you seem positive could survive and advance throughout the tourney with a Cinderella. This is usually a very sound method as it gives you a few hopeful contestants to push through your bracket, while also allowing you to try to predict the unpredictable. However, if you pick the wrong upsets, or even worse if your Final Four favorites themselves get upset early in the tournament, that bracket you put so much time into is busted. In addition, you’ve ignored Cinderella’s run past the round of 32. This team squeaks into the tournament as a 9 or 10 seed and makes a run through the bracket, upsetting each team they encounter. Every year, bracketologists convince themselves that there cannot be another Cinderella team this year, but there always is.

Or, you could toss the above out the window and just pick teams for no particular other than a simple got feeling or a dislike of a certain team. Ironically, this method can produce some great results but can also cause many awful brackets. In 2010, No. 9 seed Northern Iowa beat No. 1 Kansas in the second round of the tourney. With the exception of the few people who decided to randomly pick teams without any knowledge of Kansas’s dominance during the season, UNI’s win was a shocker.

Bracketology is a science, a madness, and just plain insanity. Brackets are created through a variety of methods in the hopes of picking each winner correctly. However, all can be for not with one simple upset that the NCAA Tournament always produces.

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Boston College 74-72 Georgia Tech: Eagles Win 3rd Straight, Rematch Thursday

Eddie Odio has been key in the ACC according to BC Coach Steve Donahue (Photo/Boston.com)

by ALEX FAIRCHILD

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Pass intercepted by Hanlan – the horn sounds – Boston College win, 74-72.

Three straight victories for the Eagles have propelled them to 8th best in the ACC.

Despite fighting off the pesky Yellow Jackets at home, Boston College will have to do so again if they hope to advance in Greensboro, at the conference tournament come noon Thursday. The two face off on ESPNU in the 8/9 matchup.

According to Joe Rahon, “It’s gonna be another dogfight.”

His coach, Steve Donahue chimed in as well saying, “Both of us are playing as well as anybody in the league. I think Duke and North Carolina have separated themselves over the last month as the best in this league, Miami is so talented, but in terms of playing up to their potential, I think Boston College and Georgia Tech are playing great. It’s gonna be a really hard fought game.”

With Andrew Van Nest being the only graduating player on Saturday afternoon, there was an awkward feel to senior day, as the graduate student and a few managers were honored. However, this may be something to get used to, as only one player will leave the Heights next year, Danny Rubin.

Boston College is in the midst of a rebuilding project, with youngsters a plenty, though Steve Donahue said, “Somehow, we gotta get older and stay older.”

After going down 8-2, the Eagles fired back at Tech with a 10-0 run, capped by a Joe Rahon three. Though that lead was short lived, as Brandon Reed hit from deep moments later to retake the advantage for Georgia Tech.

Ryan Anderson, who finished with 13 points and 5 boards, gave BC momentum midway through the first half. Olivier Hanlan beat the shot clock with a jumper from the line, but his shot popped off the back of rim, leading to a perfectly timed put back from the sophomore.

The teams went back and forth for the remainder of the half, until Tech began to pull away. Brian Gregory’s team broke out to a 7 point lead to end the half. Their streak was highlighted by a Brandon Reed triple, which saw the hosts go into their locker room down 36-29.

Tech’s hot streak extended into the 2nd period of play. Mfon Udofia shook his head to open teammates and took a three that set the tone for the half’s opening minutes. Going up by 6 at that point, the Jackets would hold the advantage for some time thereafter, as the two sides traded buckets.

With 14:23 remaining, Tech had built a 10 point, 52-42, lead.

“No one wavered,” said Joe Rahon on being down by 10, “No one put their head down and we kept believing in each other, kept pushing and got stops when we needed to, made shots when we needed to and we came out with the win.

“We’ve been talking all season, even when we were losing those close games, like, these are going to help us down the road. We’re gonna be in close games down the road and these are gonna teach us how to win. We’ve put in the hard work and it’s starting to pay-off for us already.

“It doesn’t bother us mentally anymore.”

Eddie Odio would come off the bench after a Steve Donahue timeout. The sophomore proceeded to change the game.

After scoring via a layup, Odio went to the line on the subsequent possession making it 52-45 with favor still in the visitor’s hands, but he would keep at it, hitting from three and then scoring again thanks to a feed from Joe Rahon, who had 7 assists on the day.

“Eddie’s maturation over the last month and a half has been the difference in my opinion in a lot of ways,” said Donahue, “The first six games of the ACC he barely played and now it’s hard to keep him off the floor.”

With Odio’s onslaught over, the game turned 54-50 Tech. It was up to Ryan Anderson, who redeemed himself after missing two from the charity stripe, by knocking down his next two free throws.

Olivier Hanlan went to the rack to tie the game at 56s with just under 7 minutes remaining, but a jumper from Robert Carter Jr. and contributions from Reed, not to mention big man Daniel Miller, saw Tech retake a six point lead.

Another freshman would put his mark on the game, as Joe Rahon called his own number, driving to the hoop for the bucket and the harm. Rahon did his job from the line to give the game its 5th tie.

After winning a scramble at his own end, Rahon came back down the floor and in a similar fashion, drove and finished to give BC the lead.

It was a play like that which pleased Donahue most, as it is things like that which show the team’s improvement.

Donahue said, “I think the thing that’s improved the most, and this was an issue – we always put up the word ‘grit.’ And I don’t know if we were gritty enough early, understanding that we’re outsized, we’re young, we’re a little weaker.

“Somehow we gotta get what I call ‘dirty plays and I think the addition of Eddie, his play, has helped with that. The toughness plays was my biggest concern with this group.”

During this stretch, Rahon scored 7 straight points for BC as they went on a 12-0 run which ended when Olivier Hanlan stole the ball from Udofia at his own end, finishing with an exhilarating layup at the 29 second mark.

However, the freshman went into cruise control, as Marcus Georges-Hunt drained a three-pointer on the run, cutting the gap to 4 just 4 seconds later.

According to Donahue, that sequence nearly led to a tragic downfall for his team.

“He did that, and I knew that guy was gonna make the shot. He’s still young and as much as we’ve been through they still were so excited, I think we let it go. That could’ve broke our back,” Donahue said.

Lonnie Jackson would go to the line twice for BC. The Eagles would appear strong from the line down the stretch, however, they shot a mere 14 of 25 from the free throw line. The sophomore, who would only hit 2 of the four shots he was allotted did enough for the Eagles, putting them up by 4 with 10 seconds remaining after his second go around.

With the game seemingly in the bag for BC, Chris Bolden made things interesting, as he hit from the corner, cutting BC’s lead to 1 4 seconds from time

Udofia would foul Patrick Heckmann after the inbounds pass.

The German got the first from the line, but he failed to hit the second. Miller rebounded the ball with 2 seconds to go and proceeded to fire the ball down the floor, but Hanlan leaped to snatch the ball out of mid-air.

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Dick Kelley: BC’s Basketball SID Honored at Conte Forum

Dick Kelley was one of two recipients of this year.

by ALEX FAIRCHILD

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Boston College defeated Virginia for an inspirational man on Sunday evening.

The team won the game with Dick Kelley, who was honored with the United States Basketball Writers Association’s Most Courageous Award, in mind.

Kelley, who graduated from Boston College in 1987, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2011.

Since, the Boston College and media communities have rallied around him, attempting to give back to him everything he has given to us.

His media team, the players, friends, the coaching staff, and the night’s officiating crew gathered on center court tonight as Kelley was given the award.

After the final buzzer sounded, the entire team rushed over to Kelley, patting him on the back, and showing him how much he means to them.

Without Dick, the team’s Media Relations Director and sports information director (SID), I would not be writing this story, nor would I be where I am today as a writer or as a person.

Four years ago, on a rainy Wednesday night, Mr. Kelley called me, after I tried to reach him for two weeks via e-mail and phone.

We spoke for two hours.

Dick is known for being meticulous, and I found that out quickly, as he wanted to make sure I was not, “running him for free tickets.”

I’ll never forget that night, nor will I forget meeting him face-to-face the following Sunday, when BC played URI.

Dick showed me around the bottom floor of Conte Forum, taking me around the media suite and escorting me to my seat in the middle of media row.

He treated me like a real member of the media from ESPN or the Globe, even though I was just a freshman writing for my high school newspaper.

Before every game, Dick would come over to chat. I eventually graduated from the handshake to the coveted DK fist-bump.

“If you need anything, let me know,” were Dick’s words each time I saw him and it must be said that I’ve never met someone so adamant about helping others.

While I cannot speak for Dick, I can only say that being at BC everyday is not a job, but a lifestyle.

In a matter of months, I would ask Joe Trapani a question at a press conference, getting a smile of approval from Dick as I walked out that night, while he followed Al Skinner out of the room.

In Steve Donahue’s first year, Dick immediately introduced me to the school’s new coach. In addition, he would bring BC High graduates to me and make me comfortable with everyone he knew, because to him, those who sit at the media table are part of a tight-knit society that comes together more or less than 18 times per year.

“This game is for Dick Kelley and the stuff he’s done. I think all these guys are close to Dick and if we’re gonna go down, we’re gonna go down fighting in his honor, for sure,” said Donahue after the team’s win.

Donahue could not help but tear up, as he talked about a man who has meant so much to him in his short time at BC.

“It’s hard not to get emotional about him,” said Donahue, who then paused to collect himself, “When I first got here, he was in my office all the time. As we went forward, meeting our guys, and his encouragement to me about what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, and how great it is and just spreading that throughout our team – his love of BC, and love of our program.

“When you come new and have someone that loves that place that much and wants to help you and there’s no ulterior motive. Wins and losses, they don’t matter, just a very unique guy and what he’s going through is for all of us, he’s.. it’s an incredible, tough thing to watch, but it’s also amazing how he’s handled it – very inspirational.”

There is no doubt that he had a similar effect on the players. Joe Rahon and Olivier Hanlan see Dick as somebody to look up to.

“It meant everything,” said Rahon about being with Dick on the floor today, “He loves us. He loves us more than anyone here. We didn’t have to go out there and win it for him, but we were gonna come out and play as hard as we possibly could for him today. Being able to be with him and when he got his award at the beginning of the game meant the world to us.”

The freshman guard referenced meetings he and the team had with Dick over the summer: “When I got on campus here, and I know O too, he had us to his house within the first week of being there. He got us dinner and he just wanted to get to know us a little bit and introduce us to the BC family. He’s a great role model and he’s been a great mentor for us.”

Hanlan followed up saying, “He’s been there from the start. He was at every workout, practice, just sitting there in his chair and watching us and talking to us after. We just loved it and everybody loves him on the team and everybody appreciates him.”

I’ve been told that Dick’s goal this season was to attend every home game. He missed the opener against FIU, but has been at every home game since.

He has handled this situation with so much grace and, of course, courage.

There is no way myself or anyone could repay Dick for all he has given us.

Besides giving myself and Boston Sports U18 a media credential he has done more than I could ask for behind the scenes.

After all, perhaps an arm and a leg is all I can give to someone who has given me a possible career in a field I love and am passionate about, but even to me, I owe him far more than that.

While it’s not much, there is only one thing I and BSU18 can do for Dick – and that is to say, ‘Thank you, DK.’

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Boston College 53-52 Virginia: Eagles Fly by Cavs

Joe Rahon hit the game-winning shot, a three, to lift BC over Virginia (Photo/Boston Herald)

by ALEX FAIRCHILD

CHESTNUT HILL, Massachusetts – “Not sure how it all happened, but I just appreciate these guys and their perseverance for such a young group.”

Those were the words of Steve Donahue after his team pulled off a dramatic upset of Virginia.

After defeat in two games in North Carolina, the Boston College Eagles returned home to take on the best defense in the conference, who only allow 54 points by them per game.

Virginia showed off their D in the opening minutes. It took just under five for the Eagles to get their first basket – a Joe Rahon three. In addition, the Eagles only made 2 of their opening 8 attempts.

UVa’s top scorer, Joe Harris, drained from behind the arc twice before the clock struck 12. One of which gave his side a commanding 11-3 advantage.

Patrick Heckmann fouled the junior guard, who completed the 4 point play at the line to top off an 8-0 burst.

However, the Eagles countered with a run of their own. A Ryan Anderson layup got it started with 10:12 left in the period and Olivier Hanlan topped it off with a three.

Dennis Clifford started a move forward to pull BC within one. After a steal, he found Joe Rahon down the floor, who passed it to Heckmann for the triple.

Olivier Hanlan continued BC’s stride forward and finished the run from behind the arc. After the assist from Lonnie Jackson, the Canadian’s three gave BC a 17-15 lead with 7:15 remaining in the first period of play.

BC extended their lead to 5 via a Rahon three, but UVa used three-balls from Evan Nolte and Paul Jesperson to go into the locker room with a one point, 25-24, lead.

The Cavs started the second with a 9-0 run. Jesperson’s second three of the night and a bucket from Akil Mitchell, who led all scorers with 16 points, gave UVA a 28-36 edge.

Oliver Hanlan stopped the bleeding with a two from distance, but Jesperson did it again from range putting Virginia up by 10.

Another Eagles run, which culminated in a three from the German cut UVa’s lead to 4, 43-39.

Joe Harris ended his team’s drought with two from the line and Mitchell returned the game to order through a layup.

As BC looked to come back, Ryan Anderson’s jumper missed everything, bringing his coach to his knees. Donahue ran his hand down his face, as if to think, ‘Here we go again.’

“We had reason to pack up our tents,” Donahue said post-game

But, Coach Donahue’s boys were not done. They continued to fight.

Patrick Heckmann had his 9th point of the night, which trimmed Virginia’s lead to three. In their subsequent possession, UVa got sloppy and conceded the ball to Boston College with 2:57 to go.

Heckmann’s confidence was beaming after his 3rd three of the game, and it showed, as he looked to tie the game with one from behind the arc, that would never find its way through the hole.

Virginia got the board and shot down the floor, where they took a 5 point lead through a thunderous dunk from Mitchell.

While BC looked shaken, on they fought.

Ryan Anderson found Eddie Odio under the hoop for two. Odio, who went the distance, then swatted a UVa shot away. The ball trickled out to Olivier Hanlan who went coast to coast for the lay-in.

With the score at 51-50 at the 1:10 mark, BC were brimming with the big ‘MO’ on their side.

The Eagles’ defense was stellar, as they looked to give themselves one last shot at a tie or win. While they got the stop, there was a loose ball. On the sidelines the BC bench had its thumbs up, but the officials gave them a thumbs down, signaling a clutch timeout for the visitors. To make matters worse, the Eagles had the arrow out of their favor.

Heckmann fouled Joe Harris soon after the ball was inbounded. While the guard hit his first from the line, he missed the second. The Eagles drove down the floor and with 20.7 seconds remaining Steve Donahue called a timeout.

The shot clock went blank and the pressure was on.

Joe Rahon is a freshman. However, if you were to watch a BC game and don’t know anything about him, you would think him to be a junior or on some nights a senior who has seen it all. This was one of those games where it was the latter of those two.

One could see his teammates sense it as well, not to mention his coach.

“He’s one of those kids that nothing rattles him,” Steve Donahue said, “Even in that last play, I just wanted him to be the guy initially coming off the pick-and-roll, just a good feel, never gets too high, never gets too low.”

Known for his passing, Joe is the equivalent to FC Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez. Whenever with the ball, he can find the open man. The kid makes plays – it’s that simple.

This time, he came good with his shot.

Patrick Heckmann drove and the Virginia defense swarmed the German.

“I had confidence in him,” said Rahon, “He first went and they collapsed on him and we talk about that. We call it an alley-drive-skip pass. We work on it everyday in practice. He went, came to a great jump stop, picked his head up and he found me.”

His silk-like technique shined. As his shot formed a rainbow, Rahon was fouled, but he would welcome the pain, because that ball had found its way into a pot of victory under the netting.

Only 8 seconds remained and Conte Forum was loving it. The noise must have reached the Quad while disrupting the calm of the reservoir.

But Rahon missed from the line.

Jontel Evans drove to the basket to get UVa the win.

This looked a dangerous time. All night, Evans had gone to the rack at will.

However, this time things would be different.

As the clock wound down, Heckmann served as a wall. Standing straight up, the German forced Evans to dribble the ball out of bounds, as he tried to go baseline.

Less than .4 seconds were left and the win was in the bag.

Though the night took a final twist – a final turn. Rahon’s inbound pass was intercepted by Mitchell.

The UVa man put up a three from half. His shot perfect, but too late. The buzzer had sounded and Conte Forum erupted once again.

Mayhem ensued. The scoreboard – BC 53-52 Virginia.

Coach Donahue hinted their final shot was a culmination of the progress his team had made.

“When Patrick did drive that ball. I think last year, I would have called timeout… I would’ve said, ‘I just don’t trust him,’ but I sensed like Joe did, ‘You know what, I think he knows what he’s doing here.’”

A young squad has seen a lot over the year and close games like this have no been hard to come by.

In addition, Donahue complemented his team on their determination and work ethic.

“Great perseverance, from a group of guys that are trying their best and it’s not always great, but I never question their effort.”

Tonight’s win was even more special, because it came on the day that Dick Kelley, the team’s Media Relations Director, received the United States Basketball Writers’ Association Award for Courage.

The team gathered with Kelley on the floor pre-game for a ceremony, which was met with applause that lasted for minutes – a mere token of appreciation for a man that has done so much for Boston College throughout his life.

We will have a special story on Dick Kelley by morning.

With the season winding down, the Eagles will head to Clemson before returning home for their final game of the season against Georgia Tech. It will be senior day come Saturday, but there is not one true senior on the team – only a graduate student in Andrew Van Nest.

In fact, senior day in 2014 will only be for two students, with Danny Rubin and Alex Dragicevich, men who do not pick up as much court time, leaving campus.

Thus, this Boston College team is here to stay and will without doubt, produce something special.

Only time will tell.

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Northeastern 66, James Madison 64: Huskies pull out exciting victory in final seconds to down Dukes, clinch CAA share

Northeastern showed flair for the dramatic on Wednesday night at Matthews Arena as the Hounds earned an important win over James Madison (Matt Stone/BostonHerald.com).

by JOSHUA KUMMINS

BOSTON — The playoff atmosphere was alive and well on Wednesday night at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena as the Huskies welcomed the James Madison Dukes to the old barn for the first and only head-to-head contest between the teams this year.

In front of a season-high 3,463 fans and the highest NU home game total in exactly three years, freshman David Walker took a feed from senior captain Jonathan Lee for a 15-foot jump shot on the baseline with two seconds remaining to lift the Hounds to their 13th win of the season in Colonial Athletic Association play – a 66-64 decision.

“We were very, very fortunate to get a victory over an experienced and talented James Madison team,” said Huskies head coach Bill Coen in the post-game press conference. “We were fortunate to make enough plays down the stretch… [and] able to escape with a big victory for our program at this point in time.”

With the victory, the Huskies clinched at least a share of their first CAA title since joining the league in 2005 and their first in any conference since sharing the America East crown in 1993.

The Huskies came into the game as losers of two consecutive contests for the first time in over two months and got off to quite a start as sophomore Quincy Ford drilled a three-pointer on the very first field-goal attempt of the game.

NU hit its first three shots of the contest for a six-point edge, extending the lead to as many as nine (with 2:15 to play in the half), before entering the halftime break with a 32-26 lead on an impressive 12-for-25 shooting.

That statistic has certainly been a good omen for the Huskies’ recent successes as they have combined for a 22-4 record when leading after 20 minutes over the last two seasons. Lee started the second half off on the same note for the Huskies as he hit a jumper in the paint 32 seconds into the proceedings.

The Purple and Gold held a 38-34 scoring advantage in the second half, with much thanks to a strong stretch to about the 12:00 mark that put them up by a five-point margin.

After Lee’s shot fell, the Dukes ran off for ten consecutive points, capped off by a pair of free throws by redshirt senior A.J. Davis, who handily led the Duke attack with 21 total points.

The sides played to an even minute before the Dukes scored five straight points and then allowed six in a row to the Huskies as they took a 48-47 lead on a turnaround jump from Reggie Spencer. Once again, the visitors changed things right up as they bounced back for a 7-0 stretch that saw a three-pointer from Davis and consecutive foul shots from Davis and rookie Ron Curry with 8:00 remaining.

NU tied the game at 54 in less than two minutes as it made six consecutive foul shots, including two from Ford, who ended the night with half (seven) of his 14 points from the charity stripe to extend his streak of 31 consecutive shots made.

With the game tied, neither team broke to further than a one-possession lead as they traded basket for basket until the waning moments. Davis sent the visiting bench and traveling crowd into a frenzy as he hit an open, straightaway three-pointer with 19 seconds to play, knotting the count at 64.

The Huskies would not say die on this night as they drove down the floor for the final time with the ball in the hands of Lee, who found Walker for the sealer.

“I guess it was another shot,” Walker, a Stow, Ohio native said if he could recall another play of such importance in a game in his career, before handing off praise to his teammates. “Jon [Lee]…made an incredible pass. I was just fortunate to be in the right spot and make the shot.”

Davis looked to re-square the score with a second remaining, but his three-pointer fell short into the hands of freshman Andre Nation for the putback just too late as the Huskies survived for the heroic finish.

“They got a great look at the end of the game — probably too good of a look for my liking — but we [did it],” Coen said.

16 of NU’s 28 contests this year have been decided by five points or less and has achieved a strong record of 12-4 in those “close” contests.

NU will have a week without action of its own before returning to the floor for a contest next Wednesday night against Georgia State in Atlanta.

“This is another step in our journey,” Coen added. “We’re hoping there’s a couple more big steps…We knew something special was going to happen [this season]…We’re pleased, but we’re not satisfied. We want more.”

James Madison returns to Harrisonburg to host the same Panthers on Saturday in the final Duke home game of the season.

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Northeastern vs. James Madison: Dukes invade Matthews, look to halt Husky hopes of clinching share of CAA crown

Senior co-captain Joel Smith leads Northeastern into a key CAA showdown with James Madison on Wednesday night at Matthews Arena. Watch live on Comcast SportsNet New England!

by JOSHUA KUMMINS

BOSTON — Playoff time is approaching across the local college sports scene and things will be no different on Wednesday night on a busy night of basketball.

While Northeastern’s hockey squad took a big step just to stay in the Hockey East postseason picture with an overtime win at UMass on Tuesday, the Husky hoopsters search to clinch at least a share of their first conference regular-season crown since 1993 when they host the James Madison Dukes (16-12, 10-5) in their only meeting of the season in the Colonial Athletic Association tonight at Matthews Arena.

Previously, this match-up has been dominated by the Huskies as they hold a 10-3 advantage in the all-time set, including a 3-1 mark in games played in Boston. On Jan. 7, 2012, NU earned a 68-56 victory on the road in Harrisonburg, Va.

In last season’s contest, the Huskies held the CAA’s most prolific three-point shooting team to one conversion and was led by 20 points each from current sophomore Quincy Ford and senior captain Jonathan Lee.

The Huskies enter the contest with a 17-10 record and are 12-3 in the CAA – both the highest marks for the program since 2009-10 (20-13, 14-4).

(more…)

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As NCAA Tournament Approaches, New England Rankings Tighten

by TIM SCOTT

With less than a month remaining before Selection Sunday, many NCAA teams are battling for spots in numerous postseason tournaments. Notably, in Division I, there are many battleground conferences that may go down to the wire during the postseason. Also, many teams will have to rely on their talent and ability down the stretch in order to successfully conquer a spot in a tournament.

With that in mind, several New England schools are battling it out in Divisions I, II, and III, and continuing to become beacons of hope and optimism for the fans and students at their colleges.

1. CONNECTICUT HUSKIES (17-7, 7-5 in Big East)
The curious case of the Connecticut Huskies continues to unravel as the season progresses. Even though first year coach Kevin Ollie has done a good job piloting the team after the departure of coaching icon Jim Calhoun, the Huskies won’t be able to participate in the NCAA tournament due to academic ineligibility. Despite this, the Huskies have been keeping steady in the Big East, winning several key games. Recently, the Huskies upset the previously sixth-ranked Syracuse Orange, 66 to 58.  With Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright leading the way offensively, the Huskies will play Cincinnati and DePaul before battling #11 Georgetown on Wednesday, February 27.

Massachusetts guard Chaz Williams (3) has to step up in order for UMASS to stay afloat in the Atlantic 10. (picture courtesy of Boston Sports Then and Now)

2. MASSACHUSETTS MINUTEMEN (16-8, 6-5 in A-10)
Even though the Minutemen have had a strong showing in the early going of the season, they still continue to struggle when they need to succeed. This week was a notable example of how the Minutemen needed to perform, but did not. Despite major wins over Rhode Island and Saint Joseph’s, the Minutemen dropped two contests to Virginia Commonwealth and Temple, falling to 6-5 in the Atlantic 10. Along with the loss of guard Jesse Morgan to injury, Chaz Williams needs to step up in a leadership role in order to effectively guide the Minutemen to new heights. With matchups against Saint Bonaventure’s and Dayton, expect to see a competitive Minutemen team looking to fight for their lives.

3. AMHERST LORD JEFFS (23-2, 10-0 in NESCAC DIII)
A triple-overtime thriller over #4 Middlebury propelled the Amherst Lord Jeffs to the number-two ranking in the Division III polls. Willy Workman scored 30 points, while Peter Kaasila contributed 29 for the Lord Jeffs. With another victory over Colby in th NESCAC quarterfinals, Amherst is attempting to make a run towards a Division III championship. With David Hixon at the helm, expect the Lord Jeffs to be a force to be reckoned with in the Division III playoffs.

Amherst guard Joey Kizel (15) tries to shoot against an Amherst defender during the triple-overtime thriller on February 12 (picture courtesy of Alternative Express)

4. MIDDLEBURY PANTHERS (23-2, 9-1 in NESCAC DIII)
The Middlebury Panthers, who were previously riding a five-game winning streak, fell in triple overtime to the Amherst Lord Jeffs, 104-101, on February 12. Joey Kizel scored 30 points, while the combination of Jake Wolfin and Nolan Thompson each scored 17. Despite the loss, the Panthers will face the Williams Ephs (who beat the Panthers 64-63 in January) in the semifinals of the NESCAC tournament on February 23. Perhaps they will meet again with Amherst, and try to avenge their 104-101 loss.

5. PROVIDENCE COLLEGE FRIARS (14-11, 6-7 in Big East)
Providence College has embarked on a thrilling four-game winning streak, which has reinvigorated their season, and makes them an emerging force in the Big East. With big wins over Cincinnati, South Florida, Villanova, and recently Notre Dame, the Friars have picked up the pace, and look to achieve a high seeding in the Big East Tournament. Led by coach Ed Cooley, the Friars have played good games over the course of the season, including a major 71-54 upset over Notre Dame. The Big East’s leading scorer, junior guard Bryce Cotton, has been supported by Kadeem Batts, LaDontae Henton, and Vincent Council in a major offensive machine. The Friars will play next on Wednesday, when they challenge the Syracuse Orange (AP Rank: #9) at the Carrier Dome.

REMAINING RANKINGS:
6. Saint Anselm Hawks (18-3, DII)
Sophomore guard Ron Mabrey (18.3 PPG) and freshman forward Mike McCahey (17.0) leading an offensive sparkplug for Saint Anselm, who are ranked 10th in Division II.

7. Harvard Crimson (14-7, 7-1 in Ivy League)
Sophomore Wesley Saunders (16.7 PPG) and freshman guard Siyani Chambers (13.0) lead a young Harvard squad towards a possible Ivy League title reprise.

8. WPI Engineers (22-1, DIII)
Clinching their ninth straight season with 20+ wins, WPI clinched the top seed in the NEWMAC, and snapped a two game losing streak with a 66-51 win over Clark.

9. Williams Ephs (20-3, DIII)
Along with a notable victory over the Middlebury Panthers, Taylor Epley (18.1 PPG) and Michael Mayer (17.2) have led the Ephs to key wins over Trinity and Bates.

10. Vermont Catamounts (16-9, 9-4 in America East)
Despite a little slide down the America East standings, the Catamounts look to veterans Clancy Rugg (11.0) and Luke Apfield (10.4) as leaders down the stretch.

11. Bryant University Bulldogs (16-8, 9-4 in Northeast)
Two straight losses to Mount Saint Mary’s and Wagners put the Bulldogs in rebound mode, as they play three showdown games before a rematch against Robert Morris.

12. Boston University Terriers (15-11, 9-4 in America East)
The Terriers have picked up steam during America East play, winning four straight games. DJ Irving (14.2 PPG) and Dom Morris (11.6) are the offensive catalysts.

13. Rhode Island College Anchormen (20-3, DIII)
Winning the 2013 Little East Regular Season title, leading scorers Nyheem Sanders (11.8) and Tahrike Carter (10.5) look to lead RIC to another NCAA title berth.

14. MIT Engineers (17-4, DIII)
Despite early season struggles, the Engineers won seven consecutive games, including a 66-60 win over WPI, to clinch a spot in the NEWMAC semifinals against Springfield.

15. Northeastern University Huskies (17-10, 10-3 in Colonial)
Despite consecutive losses to Delaware and UNC-Wilmington, the Huskies still have a strong hold over the CAA, and look to avenge those losses in the final three games.

16. Fairfield Stags (16-11, 8-7 in MAAC)
With four games remaining, Derek Needham (14.8) looks to be a key player as the Stags try to gain strong footing before the MAAC playoffs begin.

17. Brandeis Judges (17-7, DIII)
Leading scorers Gabiel Moton (14.6) and Ben Bartoldus (10.1) hope to lead Brandeis to a strong ranking in UAA play down the stretch, playing NYU on Saturday night.

18. Springfield College Pride (18-7, DIII)
Following a three-game winning streak, the Pride look to be the spoiler as they play a resilient MIT Engineers squad (whom they defeated, 56-53 back in January) on Saturday.

19. Curry College Colonels (18-7, DIII)
The Colonels, who rallied to two consecutive wins to end the season, look to be a challenge to Western New England in the quarterfinals of the CCC Tournament.

20. Westfield State Owls (21-4, DIII)
Entering as the number-one seed in the MASCAC tournament, the Owls finished the 2012-2013 regular season on a strong nine game winning streak.

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Boston College 61-62 Duke: Eagles Come Close… But Not Close Enough

Ryan Anderson was key for BC as they looked to knock off Duke at home (Photo/Alex Fairchild).

by ALEX FAIRCHILD

 

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — On the weekend of a top 5 storm in New England, Boston College set out to beat a top 5 team. After losing to Miami in Coral Gables by 22, Steve Donahue’s team would not have it any easier upon their return to Conte Forum. Averaging 4 point wins at BC in the last few meetings between the two, Duke had to have known they were in for a struggle.

While the Dukies left snowy Boston with a 62-61 win, it took a full 40 minute fight against an Eagles team desperate for victory at home.

The night’s first surprise came when Steve Donahue started Dennis Clifford. The sophomore captain has had a tough run of it this season, suffering set back after set back. Coach Donahue said last week that the medical crew considered shutting the big man down, though Clifford played 14 minutes on Sunday night. His time on the floor showed promise and what kind of a player he will be in the coming years.

Clifford and Ryan Anderson gave Mason Plumlee a hard time early. Doubling up on the Duke forward in the opening minutes, the pair took away Duke’s inside threat. Quinn Cook finally ended the Blue Devil drought hitting after 5 minutes of play.

BC (10-13, 2-8 ACC) never relented. Patrick Heckmann’s only points of the game came after a great bit of passing from the Eagles.

Steals kept Boston College ahead in the game. They led the category at halftime 7-2. One from Ryan Anderson allowed him to hit Joe Rahon down the floor. The playmaker found Heckmann whose pass to Ryan led to two more for the sophomore, giving BC a 13-5 lead. This 8 point advantage with 10:58 remaining in the first would be the biggest point spread of the night.

Duke (21-2, 8-2 ACC, #4 AP, #4 USA Today) closed it to 14-11, but Dennis Clifford twisted and turned in the paint, drawing a foul from Plumlee. The captain, who hit his layup, knocked down the ensuing free throw as well.

Clifford, Van Nest, Anderson, Odio and at times Lonnie Jackson continued giving Mason Plumlee a run for his money. Duke’s go-to man was troubled by the constant change in personnel that Donahue showed him. Fresh legs limited Plumlee all night, even though he finished with 19 points.

Four minutes from the intermission, Andrew Van Nest hit two from the line putting BC up by 7, but Duke chipped away at BC’s lead after the final media timeout of the period. While Ryan Anderson extended BC’s time ahead by ducking under Plumlee for a basket, Tyler Thornton capped a Duke spurt making it 23-22 Eagles.

Mason Plumlee then mustered a three point play, erasing BC’s lead, but Olivier Hanlan, who led all scorers with 20 points, drained one from beyond the arc to put his side ahead by two. However, Plumlee did it again for Coach K with a monster dunk that took the game into the half tied at 27.

Any hope Duke had of BC losing their momentum faded right off the bat. A Ryan Anderson jumper gave BC a quick lead coming out of the break.

However, Seth Curry and Josh Hairston put Duke ahead by 3.

BC did not give up. Ryan Anderson shoved his way through Duke’s defense, finishing with a dunk of his own to pull his team back within one.

Things looked bleak for BC though. After Plumlee stripped Anderson at the top of key, he trotted the length of the court and finished with a one-handed slam that shook Conte Forum.

Anderson scored again, as BC kept its dream alive, though Quinn Cook’s three point play kept Duke in front by 6.

The pesky Eagles never went away. Lonnie Jackson found the hoop with ease, tying the matchup with a simple layup for his only points of the night.

With a 55-55 scoreline and 5:15 remaining, momentum had shifted in favor of the young Eagles.

After the teams ran up and down the floor, Olivier Hanlan struck with two from the line for Boston College, who at that point took a 5 point, 61-56 lead 3:22 from time.

However, BC would not score again. Coach K’s Duke finished the game with a 6-0 run, which included a three ball from Cook and buckets from the stripe by Plumlee.

With the shot clock off, Steve Donahue put the ball in the hands of his Canadian freshman. Hanlan stalled, took a jump step to get an open look, but missed. His teammate, Ryan Anderson, came down with the board, but was smothered by Plumlee & Co. as the buzzer sounded signaling a 1 point win for the Durham natives.

The legendary Mike Krzyzewski respected BC’s performance, against his number four side saying post-game, “Boston College is what we thought they would be – resilient, tough, they took the fight to us, I thought. Tonight, I thought they were exceptional.”

"Tonight, I thought they were exceptional." - Coach K on BC's performance against his victorious 4th ranked Duke (Photo/Alex Fairchild)

 

“We couldn’t get close to the bucket,” said Coach K of BC’s defense, “It’s a game where you kind of have to fight through resistance.

“I thought the second half we played pretty well.. But, they don’t give you points for getting down to the 5 yard line. We didn’t put the ball in the basket.

“It’s a tough loss for them, because they played definitely well enough to win – they were deserving of winning, I’m not saying we weren’t either, but they played really well,” said the Olympic gold medalist.

He was especially happy with the way his team won the game, despite it being in the final moments.

“When you get a defensive exchange to stop, it’s five guys playing as one. For me there’s no better feeling that to win a game that way. You see them on the floor and that red light goes off and it’s pretty cool, it’s a pretty cool thing.”

Krzyzewski also commented on what has been a crazy past few weeks in the college game. The reason Coach K suggested for the early madness – “There aren’t the powerhouses that there have been. To me, the best right now is in our conference – Miami. Their average age is 23 and they don’t play anybody who’s young. They’re healthy, well-coached, and can score from every position.”

Ryan Anderson has been a standout for Boston College since his arrival on campus in 2011. As one of the best all around players in the game, he is a threat to coaches across the nation. Steve Donahue complimented his star man after the team’s victory against Clemson, saying that his forward shows up in so many different spots, that he is extraordinarily tough to track.

Coach K agreed with that evaluation of the sophomore who finished with six rebounds and 17 points saying of the California man, “He’s a really good player. He’s a basketball player. He’s not a position, and that’s what makes him difficult to guard. Whether he’s at the 5 or the 4, he’s really not either one of those. He’s just a basketball player. For me, that means he can handle it, he can shoot it, he can pass it, and he’s strong with the ball. He has good moves.

“Because they can shoot so well, he has operating room. A lot of times, guys are not accustomed guarding a guy like him and he takes advantage of them.”

While the defeat pushed Boston College further towards the bottom on the ACC table, Steve Donahue must be happy with his team’s performance. Their work on Sunday was impressive, especially as Duke looked a threat to run away with it as the game persisted. The Eagles were resilient and impressive from the line – which has been a soft spot for them all year. Under pressure, Donahue’s team went 17-20 from the charity stripe.

In addition, a team known for its three point shooting did not show it tonight. They took a relatively low amount of risks from range, taking a mere 11 attempts for three, as opposed to their usually 20 plus.

The return of Dennis Clifford was positive and the adrenaline rush the captain gave his team was noticeable, as they played with great passion whether or not their leader was on the court.

Rebounding from a devastating performance against Miami, the Eagles’ performance Sunday night, was a preview of the team’s future. With a starting lineup of two freshman and three sophomores, this team has time to gel.

In one year’s time do not be surprised to see Boston College take Coach K’s team to the wire once again – perhaps producing a different outcome.

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