Every game is a building process now. Effort and confidence serve as the construction materials, much in the same way as brick and mortar.
Monday night, in an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown against second-ranked Syracuse before a boisterous sellout crowd of 8,606 at Conte Forum, the Boston College men’s basketball team demonstrated its 69-59 loss was not for a lack of effort or confidence.
The Eagles (5-12, 1-3) merely came up short in their attempt to stack another solid effort on top of last Saturday’s first conference win of the season at Virginia Tech.
“I was real proud of our effort,’’ said BC coach Steve Donahue, whose team rallied from 9-point, first-half deficit to pull within 32-30 at halftime before squandering an 8-point second-half lead as Syracuse pulled away with an 18-3 run.
“We really followed the game plan and we really fought and competed,’’ Donahue said. “We had a couple of bad spurts, but that’s a credit to Syracuse and what they bring to the table every game. A couple of those spurts just really hurt us.’’
Lonnie Jackson, whose winning 3-pointer beat the Hokies in Blacksburg, Va., led the Eagles with 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting, including 6 of 9 from the 3-point arc. Ryan Anderson, who was forced to log 37 minutes after junior center Dennis Clifford tweaked an ankle injury in pregame warm-ups and sat out the game, chipped in 14 points and five rebounds, while Olivier Hanlan had 13 points to go along with 6 assists and 3 rebounds.
“I’m just trying to find a rhythm,’’ said Jackson, who was slowed at the outset of the season by a nagging Achilles’ injury. “Early in the season it was kind of tough for me, just being injured. But now I’m starting to find my rhythm and Coach is putting me in a position to score and he has confidence in me and I have confidence in myself that I can knock down that shot.’’
Jackson certainly entered the game brimming with confidence, which only instilled his teammates with confidence to get him the ball against Syracuse’s stifling 2-3 zone defense.
“I think having that kid back, obviously, is a big difference maker for their team,’’ said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who was largely unsentimental about the return of his team to Chestnut Hill for the first time since 2005, this time as a member of the ACC.
“He’s a tremendous shooter,’’ Boeheim said of Jackson. “We pride ourselves on doing a better job on guys like that, but we didn’t tonight.’’
While Syracuse struggled offensively, the Orange (17-0, 4-0), who were led by Trevor Cooney’s 21 points, used their defense to get on track.
After the Eagles erased an 8-point deficit (16-8) to rally for a 21-19 lead, Cooney scored on three uncontested run-outs off a backcourt steal to give Syracuse a 32-23 lead.
But Jackson drained a huge trey, Hanlan followed with a pair of foul shots, and Eddie Odio (5 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocked shots) scored on an offensive putback to pull the Eagles within 32-30 at the break.
“Midway through the game, I thought to myself the reason we’re competing with the No. 2 team in the country is that we’ve been through so much already this season that it’s not fazing the guys,’’ Donahue said, referring to the crucible of BC’s grueling nonconference schedule.
“I think that’s a product of the schedule. Now, the schedule has obviously set us back with our record and things like that, but I believe that it’s helping us now, it’s going to help us in a month and it’s going to help us next year. And it gave us great confidence.’’
But the Eagles seemed to discover another important element in what has become a brick-by-brick building process this season.
“They have great hope in that locker room,’’ Donahue said. “There’s real, sincere hope. Is there confidence? It’s getting there, but there’s not despair, there’s not discouragement. There’s a lot of hope and pride that they’re ready to play for each other.’’