The Boston College men return home to a tall task after a rugged two-game stretch on the road, where the Eagles suffered a 76-73 overtime loss to Notre Dame and a 77-67 loss to Virginia.
As their just reward, the Eagles (6-16, 2-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) will host 11th-ranked Duke Blue Devils (18-5, 7-3), led by freshman Jabari Parker in an ACC clash at 6 p.m. Saturday at Conte Forum.
“Obviously, there’s been a lot of adversity and we’ve taken a lot of punches, no doubt,’’ said BC coach Steve Donahue, referring to the loss to the 20th-ranked Cavaliers, who streaked to a 40-21 halftime lead that was thrice expanded to 21 in the second half.
“I’m really proud of how we’ve maintained our positive approach and our work ethic and our enthusiasm for wanting to get better every day,’’ Donahue said. “I’d love for them to be rewarded [against Duke] and I think it’s going to be a great atmosphere for the game.’’
The Eagles will attempt to build upon the second-half effort they had at Virginia.
Trailing, 56-35, with less than 11 minutes to go, BC responded with a 29-17 run over the next 10-plus minutes to whittle Virginia’s lead to 73-67 on Garland Owens’s 3-pointer with 39 seconds remaining.
“They did what they had to early, and they got physical, and we did not react well,’’ Donahue said. “But from that point on — and Virginia’s such a good defensive team, they really crush teams — I thought we took care of the ball, we took good shots and we competed for the remainder of the game.’’
Now the Eagles must prepare to give a full 40-minute effort against Duke, which owns a 16-2 record all-time against BC and has won the last seven meetings.
“I just think they’re very aggressive on both sides of the ball,’’ Donahue said.
“Not that they’re always like that, but this year they’re really attacking the basket, shooting the ball from 3, they’re getting it inside more and working it around,’’ Donahue said. “They’re shooting at such a clip from the 3 [having made a league-leading 106 of 251 attempts] and on the defensive end they don’t allow 3s [giving up 36 out of 97 attempts], so it’s a big part of the game and they’ve done a really good job with this group, figuring out that’s the way they’re going to win.’’
Parker, a 6-foot-8-inch, 238-pounder from Chicago, has been a major factor in Duke’s success, scoring 20 or more points in 13 games this season. Parker is the league’s top freshman scorer (18.7 points per game overall) and rebounder (8.2). He has averaged 15.3 points in 10 conference games and won ACC Rookie of the Week honors six times, including the first three weeks.
“He’s obviously extremely talented and you’ve got to pay a ton of attention to him,’’ Donahue said.
The Eagles realize they can ill afford to stumble out of the gates against the Blue Devils.
“We just have to be aggressive from the start,’’ said BC sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan, who ranks third in league scoring with 17.7 points per game. “We can’t be afraid to make mistakes, even if you get subbed out quick.
“It might look bad in the moment, but eventually it’ll help your team. We just have to stay positive and try to get over that hump.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.