PROVIDENCE — They were all trying to sort through the confusion.
With Boston College and Providence tied, 78-78, in overtime, Eagles sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan had possession on the wing, in front of the BC bench.
When Hanlan saw forward Ryan Anderson and tried to feed him the ball, Friars senior Lee Goldsbrough took a swipe at it.
Seeing the ball — and possibly the game — bouncing away, Anderson went diving for it.
In the process of hitting the hardwood, he took out Goldsbrough.
With Goldsbrough and Anderson in a heap, referee Mike Roberts blew his whistle and pointed emphatically at Anderson, who was still laid out, face to the floor.
Sitting on four fouls, Anderson knew what the whistle meant.
He took a deep, defeated breath, stared at nothing in particular, and stepped slowly toward the Eagles bench, knowing his night was done.
Then, it wasn’t.
Somewhere between the whistle and the scorer’s table, things got mixed up.
Instead of the foul being called on Anderson (who wears No. 12), it was called on Hanlan (who wears No. 21 and had only three fouls).
“I don’t know how that happens,” Hanlan said. “But hey, it is what it is.”
Anderson couldn’t explain it either.
“I thought he said 12, but I guess he said 21,” Anderson said. “I thought I fouled him, but the ref called it on Olivier, so he bailed me out.”
To BC coach Steve Donahue, there was no question.
“There’s no doubt it was on Ryan,” Donahue said. “I don’t know why he called it on O. I tried to explain, but then at the time I would have lost a player. Or do I take another player with four [fouls]?
“Even after I said, ‘That was on the big guy,’ he said, ‘Yeah, it was on the big guy.’ That didn’t get executed at the table.”
The Eagles were spared a foul out, but after Goldsbrough knocked down the two ensuing free throws, Providence never looked back.
All the whistles in the Friars’ 82-78 victory made the season opener for both teams feel like one loud, chaotic traffic jam.
With the NCAA tweaking its rules on hand-checking, the two combined for 55 fouls.
“The stop and go of the game so much, we allowed that to bother us,” Donahue said. “Providence did a real good job of playing through that.”
Led by Bryce Cotton (28 points, 9 of 10 from the line), the Friars took advantage even though they were just as frustrated, going 30 of 36 from the stripe.
“It was a battle of which team figured it out, and I think Providence figured it out,” Donahue said. “I thought they understood the whistle better than we did.
“Don’t look at this as me blaming the officials. I thought they were very consistent the whole game. It’s just way, way, way different. I give Providence credit because they did a great job of adjusting and figuring it out.”
Even though he shot poorly early on and finished the night 6 of 15, Hanlan caught on in the second half, going 7 for 8 at the line and finishing with 23 points.
“I feel like I just got used to all those new rules about how physical you can be, how you can’t necessarily have a hand on anybody,” Hanlan said. “We’re still pretty much trying to get used to it. So I was trying to time guys and just slow down on offense and really try to get fouled and get to the rim.”
Donahue spent the preseason bracing his team for the changes.
“I had two scrimmages and all my friends in the business were saying, ‘How about this?’ And I didn’t have any [problems],” he said. “We didn’t get in the bonus in either scrimmage. How about that. We had 11 fouls. I don’t know. We have to adjust. They’re doing their job. We have to adjust.”
But with 17 turnovers and just 11 assists, fouls were just one of the Eagles’ issues.
“The ball didn’t move enough,” Donahue said. “Bodies didn’t move enough. That’s not how Boston College wins games.”
With high expectations this season, the question will be how quickly the Eagles adjust.
“I appreciate that we fought hard in a great atmosphere, hung around, came back,” Donahue said. “There’s a lot of great things from it, but quite honestly, we can play a better.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @julianbenbow.