Coming off a Miami game that BC head coach Jim Christian called “awful” the Eagles responded with a solid effort that was rewarded in a good way. Four Eagles finished in double figures led by the backcourt combination of Jay Heath (16 points, four assists) and Derryck Thornton (22 points, five assists). They combined for 38 points, nine assists, and only four turnovers. The result was a victory at Conte Forum over North Carolina State 71-68. The win gets the Eagles back to .500 overall at 13-13, and 7-8 in league play. The loss dropped the Wolfpack to 16-9, 7-7.
The Eagles were solid for most of this game. They played with a lead for over 36 minutes of action. They held their own on the backboards being outrebounded by three (35-32,) which is pretty good when you consider the Eagles were without Jared Hamilton who was out with an ankle injury. Although his production would be missed, BC made up for it in other ways. They were led by a backcourt duo, that for most of the night, was better than State’s. The other thing that hurt N.C. State was their three-point shooting of 2-for-19 for the night (10.5%). When the game became close down the stretch in the second half, the Wolfpack could not knock down shots from deep that could either have tied the game or allowed them to take the lead.
State had the lead in the first half for all of 35 seconds. They scored baskets on their first two trips on offense. A Manny Bates layup, then a C.J. Bryce (15 points) jumper made it a 4-2 N.C. State lead. From that point on it was all Boston College. The guard play of the Eagles took the first half over. An 8-0 run got it started with Heath and Thornton knocking down back to back three’s as part of the run. Boston College got its first double-digit lead on a Thornton short jumper in the paint to make it 24-14 with 8:26 to go. That was part of an 8-2 BC run. While the Eagles were making shots, N.C. State was not. Five minutes into the contest they were shooting at 18% and by the halfway mark it was 24%. As far as from behind the arc, well how does 9% grab you? Not the way to win on the road. But despite all of that, State found a way to hang around as coach Christian said afterward “they really defend” and they would have to as their offense struggled in the first half. The Eagles went to the locker room with a seven-point advantage at 40-33, but it felt like it should have been bigger.
In the second half, State began to make their move. They cut the BC lead to five at 46-41 with 16:44 to go. Layups by Bates and Bryce, sandwiched around a Markell Johnson fast-break dunk got the Wolfpack back into the game. BC then went back up by eleven at 52-41 on a 6-0 spurt. Nik Popovic (14 points, eight rebounds) got four on a dunk of his own and a lay-in, plus two free throws by Thornton looked to give the Eagles control of the game once again. One thing about this BC team, they never make it easy for themselves. Sunday night was another example of that. North Carolina State went on another run that cut the Eagles lead to five once again at 56-51. Devon Daniels (15 points,10 rebounds his second double-double of the season) had five in the run. He got some help from Jericole Hellems (15 points) who knocked down a jumper. At the ten minute mark of the second half, State was on the upward swing and the Eagles looked like they were hanging on. With 6:18 left, the Eagles lead was down to two at 60-58 on a fast break dunk by DJ Funderbunk (10 points, six rebounds). Then, Funderbunk connected from the free-throw line twice to keep it at a one-score game at 62-60 with 5:12 to play.
State then did what, for most of the night, was unthinkable. First, they tied the game on a Daniels three-pointer. Then, next time down the court took their first lead since early in the first half on a Johnson layup in the paint. The Conte Forum crowd was in shock and so too were the Eagles who were now down two at 66-64 with 3:12 to play., BC took the game back as Thornton’s two free throws tied the game at 66-66 with 2:48 to play. Steffon Mitchell gave them the lead by hitting one at the line and then made two key defensive steals that led to a Jairus Hamilton (11 points) breakaway dunks that sealed the win for Boston College, 71-68. State did have one last shot, but a Bryce three-point jumper was off the mark.
After the game, Christian said, “his guard play was terrific and they took care of the ball.” On the last second chance for N.C. State, Christian wanted his team to foul if the ball was dribbled, which the Eagles did not do. They did guard the three-point line which made Bryce’s shot more difficult. Afterward, Thornton said “Coach wants me to limit my turnovers” which he did on Sunday night with only two, and to take good shots. Mitchell got a lot of credit for playing the last eight minutes with four fouls. His coach said, “he calms us down in a lot of ways.”
The Eagles now jump back on the road and head to Virginia on Wednesday night.