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.