CHARLESTON, S.C. — The Boston College players wore long faces as they jogged through the tunnel and out of TD Arena after a hard-fought 84-74 loss to 16th-ranked Baylor Thursday. But the loss was encouraging, “as encouraging as a loss can be,” said Eagles coach Steve Donahue.
Sophomore swingman Ryan Anderson had another sharp outing (25 points, 6 rebounds) following his 29-point, 17-rebound effort in BC’s opening win Sunday over Florida International.
Anderson scored 19 points in the first half, but the Eagles only led by 2 (43-41) in their meeting with the Bears (3-0).
When the second half started, Baylor came out with a fast-paced attack spearheaded by 5-foot-10-inch senior point guard Pierre Jackson (31 points, 7 assists) and 7-1 freshman center Isaiah Austin (16 points, 9 rebounds).
The turning point came six minutes into the second half when Jackson hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Bears up, 57-52.
In a last-ditch effort with less than two minutes remaining, the Eagles came out of a timeout in a full-court press. But the ploy was unsuccessful as Jackson broke it easily, leading to Baylor layups and free throws.
Jackson, the preseason Big 12 player of the year, impressed Donahue.
“[Jackson] is the best guard on one of the best teams in the country,’’ he said. “Pick your poison with that guy, he is just very hard to stop.”
Donahue was encouraged by the Eagles’ play in the opening round of the Charleston Classic.
“We are very young,’’ he said. “Any time you start three sophomores and two freshmen against a team like Baylor, it is going to be tough. We still played well, Joe [Rahon] and [Lonnie] Jackson missed a few shots that they usually make.”
With seven minutes remaining in the first half, the Eagles found themselves down 2 points. Moments later, Anderson caught the ball on the post and gave Baylor forward Taurean Prince a two-step move that led to a dunk.
Anderson, who scored the Eagles’ first 8 points on an array of confident jump shots and nifty finishes, said he is happy to be in top shape for the season.
“I spent the entire offseason working on my body, turning fat into muscle, and trying to get to where Coach Donahue wanted me to be,” said Anderson.
After a defensive stop, junior guard Danny Rubin knocked down a transition 3-pointer from the right wing, putting the Eagles ahead and causing Baylor coach Scott Drew to call time out.
The next few minutes saw lead changes, and a sense of bewilderment for the Bears. As the first half came to a close, Brady Heslip (10 points), who transferred to Baylor from BC, converted consecutive baskets to put the Bears up by 1.
But with three seconds remaining, Anderson caught the ball at half court and heaved up a prayer, the ball swishing through the net. Anderson casually trotted off the court with the Eagles up, 43-41.
After intermission, Anderson slowed a bit on the offensive end with Austin shadowing his every move. The Eagles were able to find offensive production out of Olivier Hanlan (16 points, 6 rebounds) and Andrew Van Nest (13 points).
“I was very encouraged by Olivier’s play tonight,” said Donahue of the freshman guard. “He’s going to play a big role for us moving forward.”
Although disappointed, Anderson was confident about the Eagles future, starting with Friday afternoon’s game against Dayton.
“We strive to keep improving and getting better every day,’’ he said. “I think if we started league play right now, we would be prepared.”