ATLANTA — Boston College coach Steve Donahue watched Olivier Hanlan’s shot fall through the net to give the Eagles a 71-70 lead with 3.4 seconds left Thursday night and the next thing Donahue saw was confusion. His players were looking around for a man to cover to prevent Georgia Tech from getting down the floor for its own game-winning chance. It was hectic. The floor was a jumble of players on the baseline where Hanlan had made his shot.
Instead of letting Tech quickly inbound the ball and hustle down the floor, Donahue screamed for a timeout.
“When I looked up we had four guys underneath the basket and I didn’t think we were mentally ready to guard,” Donahue said.
Georgia Tech was able to call a play during the timeout, and guard Marcus Georges-Hunt used a screen to get off a 28-foot shot with .7 seconds to play. It stripped the net, and BC went on to lose the Atlantic Coast Conference game, 74-71.
It was the Eagles’ fourth straight loss and they fell to 6-18, 2-9. The game was delayed a day because of the ice storm in the South.
BC had terrific offense and miserable defense, particularly in the second half when Tech shot 77 percent. The Eagles were also outrebounded, 36-19, even with Donahue starting a bigger lineup with 6-foot-11-inch freshman Will Magarity.
“It’s been our Achilles’ heel,” Donahue said of the defense.
The offense was reliable with Hanlan scoring 21 points, Ryan Anderson getting 13, and Joe Rahon adding 11. BC shot 50 percent from the field and made 9 of 17 3-pointers.
But the defense was a ball-and-chain the Eagles had to drag around the floor.
There was a four-minute stretch, however, with about eight minutes left when BC found some traction. Donahue shifted his team into a 3-2 matchup zone, which trapped the ball in the post. BC tried it early in the game and Tech got a quick dunk, but when the Eagles went back to it, they stifled the Yellow Jackets, allowing two baskets on seven possessions to take a 67-62 lead.
BC kept the lead until Georges-Hunt drove the left side for a layup with 22 seconds to play to give the Yellow Jackets a 70-69 lead.
The Eagles came down the floor and Hanlan found himself on the baseline and stepped back to hit a 12-footer for the 71-70 lead with 3.4 to play. The crowd was stunned and the BC players started looking for someone to cover quickly. Tech was out of timeouts.
“We were scrambling a little bit to find a matchup,” said Rahon. “Coach felt we were a little scrambled and I did, too. We needed that timeout.”
After the timeout, the 6-2 Rahon had the 6-5 Georges-Hunt in the backcourt and challenged him up the court. Tech’s 6-11 Daniel Miller came across the court and set a back screen on Rahon. That forced Jackson to switch off Miller, which allowed Georges-Hunt some separation.
“We didn’t want [Georges-Hunt] to get downhill on us, that’s what we talked about in the timeout,” Jackson said. “He hit a great shot. It was contested.”
Jackson shook his head. He knew BC let one get away. He jumped at Georges-Hunt and was called for a foul, and the Yellow Jacket made the free throw for the 74-71 edge. The Eagles tried a desperation heave from in front of their bench by Rahon but it had no chance.
“We’ve got to get to a point where we have good back-to-back halves, we can’t let a team outrebound us,” Jackson said. “We have one of the best, efficient offenses, but when struggling on defense against anybody in the ACC it makes it a lot easier for them.”