The situation demanded that Olivier Hanlan do something completely opposite of his nature as a scorer.
Boston College had shaken off one its worst first halves of the season on Saturday, and in a hectic second half the Eagles cut what had been a 14-point Clemson lead to 62-59 with six seconds left.
Standing at the free throw line, Hanlan’s only option was to make the first foul shot and miss the second on purpose. It’s a situation coach Steve Donahue has covered in practice.
Hanlan tried to simplify the task as much as he could.
“You kind of just try to hit it off the edge,” Hanlan said.
But there was nothing natural about it.
Hanlan came into the game shooting 83.6 percent from the line, the best clip among BC players with more than 20 attempts.
He had already gone to the line nine times Saturday, making every one of them.
Just seconds earlier, out of a timeout, Hanlan split two defenders and muscled up a layup with enough english to roll over and through the rim as he took a tough foul from Clemson forward Landry Nnoko. He calmly converted the 3-point play, pulling BC to within 61-59.
But K.J. McDaniels made a free throw to give Clemson a 3-point cushion with six seconds left, and Hanlan was fouled.
Hanlan made the first free throw. His second shot was beautifully imperfect.
The soft bounce off the front of the rim gave Hanlan enough time to snatch the rebound himself. He was fouled again trying to score on the putback.
“We executed it perfectly,” BC forward Ryan Anderson said.
The Eagles needed two free throws to send the game into overtime.
Hanlan’s first attempt was an exact replica of his previous attempt, another miss.
When McDaniels grabbed the rebound after Hanlan’s next miss, Clemson’s 62-60 win was sealed.
Hanlan hadn’t missed a free throw until he had to do it by design, and no one knew how much it affected him more than Clemson coach Brad Brownell.
“Just having missed, that’s not exactly great for your psyche,” Brownell said. “In a pressure situation, you just missed one — even though you’re intentionally missing it — it’s still not good for you and I think that played into him missing the last one. “
The Tigers jumped out to a 31-17 halftime lead, but left the door cracked for BC by turning the ball over eight times in the second half.
In the final two minutes, Anderson stripped Clemson guard Rod Hall in the backcourt, Adonis Filer was whistled for a double-dribble, and Garland Owens pilfered McDaniels.
“We kept them at bay, but then in the last two minutes, we did about everything we could to lose the game,” Brownell said.
For the second time in three games, the Eagles mustered just 17 points in the first half. Before that, their last 17-point half was in 2011 against Harvard.
Following Hanlan’s 3-pointer with 13:23 left in the half, the Eagles’ only field goal before the break was an Eddie Odio dunk. The Eagles missed 10 of 11 shots from the floor over that stretch, including four threes.
They finished the half with a season-low four field goals (their fewest at Conte Forum since putting up six against Georgetown in 2002), and for painfully long stretches good shots seemed impossible to come by.
With a little over a minute left before the break, Hanlan found himself fighting a losing battle with the shot clock. He was double-teamed, the ball was stuck between his legs. He managed to gather himself and throw up a shot that didn’t come close to the rim.
But while the ball was in mid-air, referee Raymond Styons blew his whistle. The only reason the Eagles avoided their third shot-clock violation of the half was because Hanlan was called for traveling.
Excluding its win over Philadelphia University Dec. 15, BC hasn’t led at halftime since a Nov. 22 win against Washington.
Still, for as bad as things went in the first half, the Eagles were down only 56-50 with two minutes to play.
“That’s as poor an offensive half as I’ve probably ever coached,” Donahue said. “That’s why I probably appreciate this effort the most because that was absolutely horrific offense in the first half. For us to come back and grind it out, there’s a lot of fight in those guys.”
The Eagles (4-11) dropped to 0-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference while Clemson (10-3) took its conference opener. But Brownell acknowledged there isn’t much difference between the teams and defended Donahue for putting his team through a brutal nonconference schedule.
“I know much was started to be expected because of the way they finished [last season],” Brownell said. “Steve goes out and challenges himself with a tremendously hard schedule. Now people are upset with him because he challenged himself? It’s hard. I went the other way. I scheduled soft to build confidence for our team because we were coming off a 13-18 year and we needed to win games so we could think we could beat somebody.
“At the end of the day, they’re not a [4-11] team and we’re probably not as good as our record. If we played their schedule, I’m sure we’d look a lot like that.”Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.