CHARLESTON, S. C. — Coach Steve Donahue saw his young Boston College men’s basketball team take steps in the right direction over the weekend at the Charleston Classic.
“I love what we are doing and I love where we are headed. I’m just not sure if we’re there yet,” said Donahue of his team’s early season performance.
On Sunday, BC once again battled a more experienced opponent for the whole game, but against the host College of Charleston (2-2), the Eagles (1-3) wore down late in the second half in a 71-67 loss.
“We tried to turn up the defensive pressure, and it really just looked like they lost their legs in the second half,” said Charleston coach Doug Wojcik.
The game opened with brisk ball movement on the offensive end for the Eagles, which led to open layups and jumpers. As the half progressed, sophomore guard Lonnie Jackson (14 points, 5 rebounds) and sophomore forward Patrick Heckmann (18 points) began to find a rhythm, each converting on three first-half 3-pointers.
Eight minutes into the contest, freshman Eagles guard Joe Rahon came up with a loose ball and threw a bullet pass to a streaking Eddie Odio for a layup, putting BC ahead, 19-12. It’s plays like that that Donahue loves from his young group.
“We are a team that prides ourselves in coming up with loose balls and making the hustle plays,” said Donahue.
The next few minutes became a battle down low between big men Dennis Clifford of BC and Adjehi Baru of Charleston, each player countering one another with creative post moves and blocking shots.
With both sides’ offensive leaders (BC’s Ryan Anderson and Charleston’s Trent Wiedeman) hobbled with ankle injuries, the teams appeared very evenly matched.
Late in the first half, Donahue switched his Eagles from a man-to-man defense to a 1-3-1 zone. The move proved successful as Heckmann drew a charge and then hit a deep 3-pointer, putting BC ahead, 26-22.
The Eagles held a 34-29 lead going into the locker room.
After the break BC opened up with consecutive misses from distance. The misses would foreshadow the Eagles’ second-half shooting woos from beyond the arc.
At times in the second half both teams struggled to find consistent scoring. Then, to the pleasure of the home crowd, preseason All-Southern Conference guard Andrew Lawerence woke up, scoring 8 straight points on a variety of twisting layups. Just four minutes into the second half, Charleston tied the game at 40 with a Matt Sundberg 3-pointer.
Foul trouble proved an Achilles’ heel for the Eagles when Donahue was forced to sit Clifford and Odio, who each picked up their fourth foul early in the second half.
Despite foul trouble, the last 10 minutes of the game were a dogfight as both teams traded baskets.
“Any time you have two teams playing each other that have gone 0-2 in a tournament, it’s going to be a fight,” said Donahue.
Things got chippy late in the game when Jackson and Charleston’s Anthony Thomas got tangled up diving for the ball.
With 1:20 left and his Eagles down by 4, Rahon slashed to the hoop and, among the taller players, finished with an up-and-under layup to make it 62-60.
Unfortunately for BC, Lawerence then found himself open and converted from beyond the arc.
In the final minute, BC sent Lawerence to the line three times, and the senior converted his free throws — icing the game for Charleston.