Eagles Fall on the Road to Clemson 76-66
By: Bryan Bruwer
The Boston College Eagles (13-13, 4-10 ACC) hit the road once again to take on the Clemson Tigers (16-11, 6-8 ACC) on Saturday at the Littlejohn Coliseum. With a win, the Eagles had a chance to enter a tie with Clemson for 9th in the ACC standings, inching closer to a first round bye in the ACC tournament. Perhaps more importantly, the Tigers were playing for their NCAA tournament lives, as they were listed as the first team out according to Joe Lunardi of ESPN’s most recent “Bracketology” update (2/22). A home loss to BC would likely spell disaster for a Clemson squad who still must play No. 8 UNC and a surging Syracuse team, although both matchups are home games. Luckily for the Tigers, BC was without the services of Jordan Chatman as he recovers from a lingering finger injury.
Clemson opened the scoring with two wide-open dunks as the Eagles struggled to defend the paint early on. However, the Eagles came out guns-blazing on the offensive end, hitting their first four shots from the field. Jairus Hamilton, who has been playing much better as of late, threw a defender in the spin-cycle leading to a easy layup as the Eagles nursed a one-point lead with 14 minutes left in the first half.
However, the Eagles early lead would be short-lived. BC got cold from the field and fell behind by five after a three by David Skara. But the Eagles surged back, as Chris Herren Jr. hit a 3-pointer off the bench to tie the game at 16 with ten minutes left in the half. Another scoring drought of about three minutes would ensue for the Eagles before Johncarlos Reyes, replacing Nik Popovic (who was again in foul trouble) grabbed an offensive rebound off a Ky Bowman miss and laid it in. Marquise Reed of Clemson began to heat up, hitting threes on back-to-back possessions to extend the Clemson lead to eight. Reed finished with 31 points, a career high.
Just like in Wednesday’s loss to NC State, Bowman really struggled to kick it into gear early on. Through 10 minutes of action, Bowman had not scored on three attempts from the field, with only one rebound and no assists. In his defense, he was being swarmed by double teams at every opportunity, but one would think Bowman’s speed and ability to score in transition would come into play and let him get some easy buckets. Bowman would get on the board with a step-back 3-pointer to cut Clemson’s lead to five with a few minutes left in the first half. The Eagles would head into the half down 33-29 after Steffon Mitchell hit a contested jumper at the horn off a feed from Bowman.
The Eagles got off to a hot start in the second half, regaining the lead after a Bowman three right in front of coach Jim Christian, followed by a Popovic layup and yet another three from Bowman, who seemed to be catching fire. This capped off a 14-0 run for BC dating back to Mitchell’s shot at the buzzer to end the second half, as the Eagles now had a six-point lead.
However, BC could not hold on to their newfound lead as Clemson tied the game at 44 about two minutes after the Eagles looked like they were taking control. Both teams traded buckets for the next few minutes, with neither team managing to get a foothold on a significant lead until Clemson pushed their lead to six after a 3-pointer from Reed, who was burning the Eagles all day from downtown. At this juncture of the game, it looked as if BC wouldn’t be able to recover.
Despite a five-minute field goal drought, the Eagles continued to fight, cutting the Clemson lead to five after a Jairus Hamilton three with six minutes go. Hamilton then hit another three to cut the lead to two. He finished with a season high 17 points, and appears to be coming into his own as a scorer as of late. Two free throws from his brother Jared would tie the game at 60 with four minutes remaining, as the Eagles had risen from the dead once again.
Unfortunately, the Eagles offense faded down the stretch, and the 3-pointers stopped falling. Clemson pulled away, with who else but Reed hitting a dagger 3-pointer to extend the Tigers lead to eight with two minutes left (the product of an 8-0 Clemson run). The Tigers would escape with a 76-66 victory, keeping their NCAA tournament hopes alive.
Despite playing a highly competitive game on the road against a tournament caliber team, the Eagles once again have nothing to show for their efforts. Hanging tough against good teams on the road is all well and good, but sooner or later the Eagles are going to need to learn how to close out games. It seems like the Eagles find themselves with a chance to win every road game with only a few minutes left, only to collapse in crunch-time and lose by near double digits. The Eagles should be relatively content with their performance today, but there will eventually come a time where almost isn’t good enough, and it seems like that time might be coming sooner rather than later.
The Eagles are next in action on Wednesday in a high-profile matchup with #16 Louisville at Conte Forum, while Clemson heads to the Steel City for a date with the Pitt Panthers on that same night.