RALEIGH, N.C. - Boston College coach Steve Donahue thought his team competed well in the second half against North Carolina State last night.
The Eagles played harder, yes, but it didn’t matter. By then, the problems of the first half were too much to overcome. The stronger, longer Wolfpack ran away from BC early and cruised to a 76-62 victory at the RBC Center.
Midway through the first half, when Eagles center Dennis Clifford hit a top-of-the-key 3-pointer, the score was tied at 21.
North Carolina State then cranked up its defense, getting a hand on seemingly every other pass the Eagles tried.
With the run, the Wolfpack took a 17-point halftime lead, essentially deciding the outcome and dropping BC to 7-11, 2-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“More than anything, I thought we held our heads down after one play and let it affect our play going forward,’’ Donahue said.
“It snowballed on us, for the first time in a while, where a bad play led to another bad play, and we kind of had this feeling where we were feeling sorry for ourselves a little bit.’’
The learning experience for the team, which starts a junior transfer and four freshmen, was painful at times. Clifford, the only Eagle to reach double figures in scoring (12 points), said it was tough to recover from the first-half burst by the Wolfpack (14-5, 3-1).
“Like Coach said, I thought they hit us in the face pretty hard in the first half, which was an eye-opener for us,’’ Clifford said.
Clifford led BC in rebounding, but with just five boards. BC, 318th of 338 teams nationally in rebounding margin, was outrebounded, 44-28.
“[Clifford] had his hands full with older, stronger guys,’’ Donahue said of his 7-foot-1-inch freshman. “He’s getting noticed now, and I’m sure part of their game plan was to be really physical with him.’’
The Wolfpack’s biggest bruiser is Richard Howell, a 250-pound junior who is 20 pounds slimmer than last season. Howell, with 11 points and 16 rebounds, was more than a handful for the Eagles.
“He’s a tough kid,’’ Donahue said. “He’s a hard matchup for anyone, particularly for us.’’
Even the guards for North Carolina State had an edge inside. Lorenzo Brown (9 points, 11 assists) at times posted up.
One play, probably long forgotten in the aftermath of 17 BC turnovers, summed up why the Eagles need better toughness and offensive precision.
BC guard Gabe Moton, listed at 6-1, 177 pounds, was matched up on the low block against Wolfpack senior C.J. Williams, a 6-5, 224-pounder. Moton was called for a foul trying to body up against Williams. It appeared he barely touched Williams, or maybe he just couldn’t move him.
North Carolina State had its way inside and out against BC, taking a 45-28 halftime lead and making it 51-28 in an instant.
The Eagles have lost three consecutive seasons at the RBC Center and for the second time by double figures on Tobacco Road after the Jan. 7 loss at North Carolina.
Scott Wood led North Carolina State with 16 points, making four 3-pointers. C.J. Leslie, who needed an IV early in the second half after suffering from leg cramps, finished 7 of 10 from the floor for 14 points.
“The ball pressure really disrupted [BC’s] timing,“ said North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried, whose team had 16 steals. “I thought we were able to take them out of their comfort zone a little bit.’’
Donahue, whose team’s next game tomorrow at home against Wake Forest, said his team’s sloppiness fueled North Carolina State’s fast break.
“I think with our guys, you don’t want to overdo it and talk about [turnovers] in great detail, but when we struggle at times, we’re careless with the basketball,’’ he said.
“We were tonight in stretches, and N.C. State’s terrific in transition. They do a tremendous job capitalizing on that.’’
Early on, the Eagles trailed, 15-5, but steadied themselves. They scored 8 points in four possessions, capped by Clifford’s 3-pointer, to tie the score at 21. The basket was Clifford’s first 3-pointer in four attempts this season.
From there, the first half was all downhill for the Eagles, who committed six turnovers in seven possessions.